Israel’s National Lottery (Mifal Hapayis) pulled its advertising from a popular television network after it broadcast claims that former Mossad director Yossi Cohen had a fling with a married flight attendant, Haaretz alleges.
Lottery chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki admitted to the Israeli newspaper that he pressured Channel 13 executives not to broadcast the investigative documentary Hamakor (The Source). But he denies cutting advertising to punish the station.
Sources at the TV station told Haaretz they don’t believe him.
After its December broadcast, a scheduled meeting between Channel 13 and the lottery to discuss advertising for 2022 was hastily canceled.
Hamakor alleged that Cohen, who headed up Mossad under former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu until June 2021, shared sensitive information with the flight attendant and her now ex-husband, Guy Striker.
‘Blabbermouth’ Spy Chief
The latter, who was interviewed by documentary makers, described Cohen as a “blabbermouth” who boasted to the couple about his Mossad activities. These allegedly included that the intelligence agency was tracking the doctor of an Arab leader and that Cohen used to pose as an Arab tour guide during undercover operations.
Cohen has denied the affair and leaking state secrets.
Yitzhaki, an associate of Cohen, said that he had met with Avi Ben Tal, CEO of Channel 13 owner Reshet, prior to the broadcast to urge him not to run it.
“Since when does the media here deal with such tabloid rubbish, with screwing around?” Yitzhaki asked Ben Tal, according to Haaretz.
Yitzhaki was told that no news organization in the world would pass on this kind of scoop.
Now, Channel 13 is feeling the pinch. Prior to the broadcast, the lottery allocated 36.4 percent of its TV advertising budget to Channel 13, the second-most popular channel in Israel, and 53.4 percent to Keshet 12, the most popular.
But in the two months since the broadcast, 90 percent of the spend has gone to Keshet and only two percent to Reshet.
The lottery is one of Israel’s biggest advertisers, and Yitzhaki applied pressure on Channel 13 at a time of financial difficulty. Over the summer, the station was forced to fire 42 employees, including prominent journalists, technical staff, and editors.
Netanyahu Corruption Charges
Yitzhaki was appointed lottery chief by Netanyahu, who was indicted for corruption in November 2019. Facing a criminal trial on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, Netanyahu was ousted from power in June 2021.
He is accused of accepting gifts from Australian casino mogul James Packer and his associate, the former Mossad agent turned Hollywood producer, Arnon Milchan.
He is also accused of attempting to manipulate the press. This allegedly included Netanyahu promising the head of Israel’s biggest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, that he could convince another casino boss, his friend the late Sheldon Adelson, to cut circulation a competing Adelson-owned paper. That was if Yedioth Ahronoth agreed to suppress its criticism of Netanyahu, according to prosecutors.
Israeli police are also investigating several claims against Cohen, including that he was illegally gifted $20,000 by Packer. He also allegedly received free tickets for a Mariah Carey concert, Packer’s fiancée at the time.
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