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Israel PM admits he spoke to newspaper before 2013 poll

ISRAEL PM ADMITS HE SPOKE TO NEWSPAPER BEFORE 2013 POLL

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has acknowledged that he spoke by phone 15 times -- within a 19-day period -- to a prominent Hebrew-language daily in the run-up to the country's 2013 general election.

Israeli media, including the Jerusalem Post, reported on Monday that Netanyahu had disclosed his frequent calls with Israel Hayom (Israel Today) Editor Amos Regev in statements submitted to Israel's Supreme Court on Sunday.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the calls were made in the weeks running up to Israel's 2013 general election in which Netanyahu clinched the premiership.

On Thursday, Netanyahu told the court that he had spoken roughly 200 times with Regev -- and about 100 times with the paper's U.S.-based owner, Sheldon Adelson -- in the period from 2012 to 2015.

"On Sunday, Netanyahu disclosed the dates and times of these contacts," the Jerusalem Post reported, noting that the PM had spoken to Regev by phone some 15 times in the days running up to the poll.

Distributed free of charge, Israel Hayom is known to be close to Netanyahu and his government.

On Sunday, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak suggested on Twitter that Netanyahu was the paper's de facto editor-in-chief, going on to assert that the free daily amounted to an illegal political contribution.

Barak also claimed Netanyahu had submitted false documents denying his close ties with the paper, calling on the judicial authorities to take action against the alleged transgression.

Netanyahu frequently criticizes what he calls "left-wing" Israeli media outlets, which he accuses of seeking to topple his government.

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