Lawyers for Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanayhu, tried to stop the broadcast of an embarrassing audiotape in which Netanyahu’s son Yair suggested his father helped push through a $20bn deal to the benefit of a gas tycoon.
The recording of the conversation, which took place outside a strip club, is the latest revelation to cast light on the Netanyahu family’s relationships with wealthy tycoons, which have so far spawned two corruption investigations into the prime minister’s activities.
According to the Israel Television Channel, the tape features the voices of Yair Netanyahu and Ori Maimon, a son of the gas tycoon Kobi Maimon. Maimon Sr is a shareholder in Isramco, which owns the Tamar gas fields.
According to the reports, Yair and friends, with his government-provided security guard and driver in tow, were going from one strip club to another.
He and Maimon can apparently be heard arguing about 400 shekels ($116) as they leave the club, with Yair reportedly telling his companion: “Bro, you got to spot me. My dad made an awesome deal for your dad, bro, he fought, fought in the Knesset for this, bro.”
He continues: “Bro, my dad now arranged for you a $20bn deal and you can’t spot me 400 shekels?”
The recording was apparently made in 2015, at a time when Israel was in the midst of a political controversy over newly discovered natural gas deposits and the rights to drill in them.
What is most likely to cause uproar in Israel is the revelation that a state security guard and government-provided car ferried Netanyahu’s son and his friends between strip clubs. The provision of a security detail for Netanyahu’s children was already controversial.
While Yair, now 26, has a reputation for his crass behaviour, his remarks – serious or not – also feed into a growing sense of outrage in Israel over the cosy relationship between the Netanyahus and wealthy businessmen.
The disclosure of the tape comes at a highly sensitive moment for Benjamin Netanyahu as he awaits police recommendations in two corruption investigationsinto his behaviour, one of which involved the receipt of gifts from wealthy benefactors.
That investigation, known as Case 1000, involves the billionaire Australian businessman James Packer, whose own relationship with Yair Netanyahu has come under the spotlight.
Public concern over the slow pace of the police investigations have spawned weekly anti-corruption demonstrations calling for Netanyahu to stand down.
The Netanyahu family attorney, Yossi Cohen, sent an urgent letter to the Israel Television News Company on Monday demanding it withhold the recording’s contents from the public.
In a statement to the television channel, a spokesman for the Netanyahu family said the recording was a “witch-hunt” meant to undermine the prime minister.
“Your witch-hunt has reached a new and unprecedented low with the broadcast of a secret tape of things that were said jokingly two and a half years ago, between young people drinking alcohol,” the statement said.
Last year, Yair Netanyahu drew unexpected praise from US neo-Nazis – including the far-right website Daily Stormer – after posting an antisemitic meme on social media. The image showed the billionaire philanthropist George Soros, a frequent target of antisemitic attacks, with a reptilian creature and a hooded, hook-nosed Elder of Zion–type dangling inducements before three of the family’s enemies.