Netanyahu’s son caught on secret recordings outside strip club talking about major energy deal
Israeli MPs have demanded an investigation after tape recordings emerged of Benjamin Netanyahu’s son talking outside a strip club about how the Israeli prime minister had arranged a $20 billion deal for his friend’s business tycoon father.
The embarrassing recordings of Yair Netanyahu, 26, lit up Israeli politics and dominated headlines as commentators debated whether they revealed new corruption or were just the drunken banter of an overprivileged son of a politician.
The secret tapes were made in 2015, when Yair Netanyahu was on a night out in Tel Aviv with Ori Maimon, the son of Kobi Maimon, a major shareholder in an Israeli energy company which owns a gas field in the Mediterranean.
On the recordings, Yair is heard complaining that Ori would not give give him 400 shekels (£87) which he said was for a prostitute. “My father arranged $20 billion for your father and you’re crying over 400 shekels for me,” he said.
He added: “My dad got your dad a sweet deal, he fought for it at the [Israeli parliament].”
He appears to be referring to a contentious 2015 gas deal which Mr Netanyahu steered through parliament, in the face of stiff opposition from critics who said the deal gave too much to the companies and too little to lower energy prices.
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Under the terms of the deal, two energy companies were given access to a large gas field, Leviathan, in return for scaling back operations in another gas field, Tamar, where Mr Maimon’s company was operating.
Avi Gabbay, leader of the Labour opposition party, called for an investigation into the claims made by Yair on the tapes. “There’s what’s been said and there are the things that are invisible to the eye,” he said.
Both Mr Netanyahu and his son insisted the tapes were merely drunken joking and strongly denied that they constituted any evidence of corruption. Mr Netanyahu is already facing two criminal investigations into corruption.
Mr Netanyahu’s lawyers tried to pressure Israel’s Television News Company into not broadcasting the tapes and blasted the company with criticism when it went ahead.
BREAKING: Asked by @yaircherki, PM @Netanyahu says his son said "nonsense" under the influence of alcohol. Yair apologized and said these are not the values that characterized him, his dad says. Says he's for inclusion of women in society.
— Raphael Ahren (@RaphaelAhren) January 9, 2018
"Tonight I watched a disgraceful, yellow-press report that presented illegal recordings of a conversation that took place two and a half years ago. In a night conversation, under the influence of alcohol, I spoke nonsense about women and other things that were better left unsaid," said Yair Netanyahu.
He said his comments about the gas deal were a joke and he took no “interest in the natural-gas framework agreement and never had any idea about its details”.
Mr Netanyahu said Tuesday that the recordings had been made illegally by Yair’s state-provided driver and had been released to put pressure on him during a row over whether his adult sons should have state bodyguards.
Yair is often portrayed in the Israeli media as a spoiled playboy, who enjoys lavish holidays and expensive nights out while his state security bodyguards trail behind him.
In the recordings, Yair is heard offering his own girlfriend to his friend. “I have to fix her up with everyone, I’m paying off my debts,” he said. The group spent much of the rest of the conversation discussing meeting prostitutes and strippers.