* Netanyahu under investigation for corruption
* Netanyahu discussed deal with newspaper owner, Ch. 2 TV
* Netanyahu has often said Israeli media hostile to him
* No immediate comment from Netanyahu or media mogul
By Maayan Lubell
Jan 8 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under
police investigation for suspected corruption, was caught on
tape negotiating mutual benefits with an arch-foe, the owner of
one of Israel's largest- selling newspapers, Israeli media
reported on Sunday.
The report, which Israeli media outlets described as "an
earthquake" that could have implications for Netanyahu's
political future, drew no immediate comment from the prime
minister or Yedioth Ahronoth daily owner Noni Mozes.
Channel Two television said the right-wing leader had
offered to limit the circulation of Israel Hayom, a free,
pro-Netanyahu daily owned and published by U.S. billionaire and
Republican party donor Sheldon Adelson, if Mozes' Yedioth
Ahronoth gave the prime minister more favourable coverage.
Steps to cut Israel Hayom's market-leading circulation
could have financial benefits for Mozes, whose newspaper's
advertising revenues have been hit by its free competitor.
It was unclear exactly when the reported conversation took
place. The Haaretz daily said it occurred several months ago.
Netanyahu last week was twice questioned by police in two
different cases. The first involved receiving gifts, including
expensive cigars and champagne from businessmen, police and the
Justice Ministry said. Netanyahu's lawyer said such presents
from friends were not illegal.
Authorities have not released any details publicly about the
second case, reported by Channel 2.
That Netanyahu and Mozes would have a dialogue was greeted
with close to astonishment by the Israeli media. Netanyahu has
openly accused Mozes and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper of trying to
overthrow his leadership through skewed coverage, an allegation
On Sunday, Netanyahu again pointed the finger at the media
and said he was being personally hounded.
"This is wrong, incessant pressure from the media on law
enforcement. They release balloons and the hot air comes out of
them time after time. That will be the case here too," Netanyahu
told Likud ministers before Channel 2 broadcast its report.
Mozes could not be reached for comment by Reuters. Yedioth
Ahronoth did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for
comment on the report. Netanyahu's spokesman did not respond to
requests for comment.
In the past few weeks Netanyahu has lashed out at
journalists who have published critical reports about his
administration and his alleged ties with wealthy businessmen.
Israeli media have reported that in the first case, police
questioned Netanyahu about receiving gifts from Israeli
Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan over the past few years.
A spokeswoman for Milchan's lawyer in Israel did not
immediately respond to requests for comment.
Netanyahu, 67, will become Israel's longest-serving leader
if he stays in office until the end of next year.
He and his wife Sara have weathered several scandals over
the years, including investigations into the misuse of state
funds. They have denied any wrongdoing.
Israeli commentators have pointed out that previous Israeli
leaders have also been investigated over suspected corruption,
with indictments not always forthcoming.
Ehud Olmert, who held office from 2006 to 2009, is currently
serving 18 months in prison after being convicted of breach of
trust and bribery in 2014.
(Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Stephen Powell)