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Things probably could not get any worse for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Bruised from the defeat at the UN Security Council and battered by US Secretary of State John Kerry last week in an unprecedented speech from any senior US official, Netanyahu was thought to be holding out for the comforting embrace of President-elect Donald Trump when he takes office.
However, there is now a new scandal that is rocking Israel at the moment which may make Netanyahu’s problems at home more unbearable than his sense of being ostracised in the international arena. It has now been revealed that Netanyahu was busy trying to cut illegal deals with media moguls in order to get favourable coverage.
Imagine Trump striking a secret deal with CNN to undermine their competitors to secure positive coverage during the US election campaign. That’s precisely the situation which Netanyahu is being accused of, and the consequences may be grave.
An investigation carried out by the Israeli police into Netanyahu revealed last Sunday a conversation between the Israeli premier and media tycoon Arnon Mozes who owns one of Israel’s leading newspapers, Yedioth Ahronoth.
The two can he heard hammering out a deal that would benefit them both.
While details of the deal are still unfolding, what is clear is that a deal was being made that would offer financial and business advantages to Mozes in exchange for favourable newspaper coverage of Netanyahu.
It is said that the deal may have possibly involved shutting down parts – or even all – of the Israeli Hayom newspaper, a competitor owned by Netanyahu’s political patron, the American-Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
If this turns out to be the case, then such an arrangement would have seen print media domination by Mozes’ daily Yedioth Ahronoth at the expense of competitors, a paper that Netanyahu previously accused of plotting his political downfall.
Media wars play a powerful role in Israeli politics and if Netanyahu is found to be complicit in such deal-making he could pay the highest political price of all.
No matter what fate holds for Netanyahu, the moral bankruptcy of the Israeli political machine is now clearer than ever. In the past decade alone, we have all seen scandals play out before our eyes that resulted in a president being jailed for rape, a former prime minister sent to prison for bribery and numerous misdeeds by ministers, lawmakers and mayors.
The only thing left to be seen is whether Netanyahu’s political career will now bomb as a result of this scandal which may see him unceremoniously hurled out of office.