Channel 2 News aired a recording Monday evening of a conversation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's son Yair and the son of gas mogul Kobi Maimon, despite the prime minister's frantic attempts to prevent the embarrassing story from airing since Monday morning.
The conversation between Yair Netanyahu and Maimon's son Ori was recorded sometime in 2015, when the country was embroiled in controversy surrounding the Israel's newly discovered natural gas deposits and the rights to drill there, partially owned by Maimon's company Isramco.
In the recording, aired on the channel's main newscast Monday, it was revealed Yair Netanyahu visited a strip club with his security guard and driver in tow, accompanied by his friends—one of which was Ori Maimon and another was Roman Avramov, who works for Australian billionaire James Packer who provided testimony on the illicit gifts affair.
In the recording, Yair can be heard telling Maimon that he has to "hook him up" with 400 NIS, which he later said was for soliciting a prostitute.
"Bro, my father cut a great deal for your father. Fought for it in the Knesset, bro," Yair is heard telling Maimon. "My father set you up with $20 billion, and you can't even hook me up with a show for NIS 400?" he added, laughing.
The conversation, as mentioned above, was recorded during discussions on gas drilling licenses. Kobi Maimon had a vested interest in the draft agreement formulated by the government being implemented due to his ownership of one of the companies partnering in the gas project.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon even recused himself from any discussions on the matter due to his friendship with Maimon.
After Yair's comments, Maimon is heard lamenting the results of the Sheshinski Committee, which was set up by the government to examine the appropriate tax burden on the production of oil and natural gas in Israel, and the results of which cost his father millions in taxes.
"It was hell," Ori said, to which Yair replied, "In that he fu***d you, but then he paid you back."
"My father set your father up for $ 20 billion, and you cry to me about 400 shekels, you son of a bitch," he said, still laughing.
"Do not let this conversation get out," Roman is then heard saying, joining in the laughter. "God forbid, if this gets out, God, it's going to be hell."
On their way to the strip club, the three are heard making salacious and disparaging comments on women, recounting their night and the many hundreds of shekels they spent on strippers.
Yair is even heard calling his two friends "dummies" for being seen outside the club with its female workers, asking them half-jokingly whether they they understood "how it would look" if they were caught on camera.
Yair then proposes to arrange for his friends an intimate meeting with a young woman who was previously in a relationship with him, saying it will "clear all his debts" with them.
Finally, a phone rings, and Yair is heared saying it was his mother, Sara Netanyahu, and how much of an embarrassing situation it is. He decides not to pick up the call, and, shaking off the embarrassment, tells his friends: "invite the Japanese girls, bro, come on."
The Netanyahu family attorney, Yossi Cohen, sent an urgent letter Monday to the Israel Television News Company demanding they withhold the recording's contents from the public.
Rumors abounded regarding the recording's contents Monday, with some sources saying the two youngsters spoke of call girls or strippers, and mentioned the relationship between their parents.
The prime minister canceled a multi-person meeting on reforming the electric sector at the last minute Monday morning. According to the Prime Minister's Office the meeting was postponed due to "scheduling conflicts," but another source said it was pushed back to allow Netanyahu to deal with the problem arousing from the expected airing of the recording.
Commenting on the tape's publication, Yair Netanyahu apologized for his "drunken nonsense," saying it doesn't represent who he is and dismissing any claim that what he said regarding the natural gas regulation agreement was anything more than banter.
"This evening, I watched a shameful yellow article that presented illegal tapes from a conversation I had two and a half years ago," he said.
"In the conversation, under the influence of alcohol, I said some nonsensical things about women and other drivel that should not have been said. These things do not represent who I am, the values I was raised by or what I believe in.
"I regret it and apologize if anyone is hurt by them."
The Netanyahu family commented to say, "Let any parent who watched the report consider how they would have responded if any offhanded remark by their children made headline news on Channel 2, every outing night out the subject of an investigative report and every conversation a target of secret recording.
"Persecution, bloodletting and shaming—every tool at your disposal to harm the Likud government headed by Netanyahu, even at the cost of harming his family members.
"You've never covered the family members of any previous prime minister with such malicious nosiness, including family members who demonstrated against IDF soldiers during a military operation and received almost no coverage.
"Your witch-hunt has now reached an all-time unprecedented low with the publication of a secret recording of things said jokingly between drunken young men two and a half years ago. This should not have made a cheap gossip show, let alone a central newscast.
"Security officials decide on the prime minister's sons' security and transportation arrangements. When an Iranian site publishes the photo of Yair and Avner (Netanyahu) and calls for their deaths, it appears security officials have good reason to do so.
"The prime minister has no connection to Kobi Maimon, who he met once ten years ago. Prime Minister Netanyahu passed the gas agreement precisely because he wanted competition for the Tamar rig owned by Maimon. The prime minister knew nothing of the relationship between his son Yair and Maimon's son. Yair he no input into the gas arrangement, and if he commented on the matter, he did so jokingly.
The Prime Minister's Office commented, "The decision to provide security for the prime minister's sons was reached by a ministerial committee on the recommendation of an advisory board, and stems from threat assessment and the fact both Yair and Avner are internationally recognizable. The prime minister and his family take no part in said security arrangements. They are also not party to the prime minister's sons' transportation arrangements, which are also determined by security officials."
The "Na'amat Movement of Working Women & Volunteers" also commented on Yair Netanyahu's recording and said, "His utterances are revolting and degrading to women. A pointed, unequivocal denunciation should be put out by the prime minister and his wife tonight, decrying these severe and violent statements.
"If this is how women are treated at (the Prime Minister's Residence), it's patently unsurprising women are still forced to fight and claw for what by now should have been obvious."
The woman Yair Netanyahu mentioned in his conversation, and who was jokingly attempting to "set up" for his friends, told Ynet, "No one can sell me. It was locker room talk and I wasn't offended by it."
"He never mentioned my name," said the young woman, who was in a relationship with the prime minister' son. "I'm sure it was a mistake and he wasn't talking about me. And if he was, so what? Anyway, I wasn't offended."
'Examine security needs, Netanyahu-Maimon link'
Zionist Union Chairman Avi Gabbay commented on the report as well, saying, "When I was fighting against the corrupt gas arrangement from within the government I said it was clear to me there was something big we weren't aware of. There's what was on the surface and things hidden from view."
MK Mossi Raz and MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) announced they will be contacting Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit demanding he examine the security needs of Yair Netanyahu and the prime minister's relationship with Kobi Maimon.
"The recording arouses suspicion that before the draft gas agreement was approved there may have been illicit ties between the Netanyahu and Maimon families, constituting a conflict of interest consider the decision eventually made," the MKs said.
Commenting on the contentious supermarkets bill, which has been put to a Knesset second and third reading votes Monday, Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli said, "All that's missing is for Netanyahu to add the 'Yair exclusion' to the supermarkets bill, so strip clubs can continue operating on Shabbat."