Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied telling the editor of The Jerusalem Post that Israel's two greatest enemies are The New York Times and Haaretz on Thursday.
In an address to the Women's International Zionist Organization in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Jerusalem Post editor Steve Linde said the prime minister had made the comments during a private meeting "a couple of weeks ago," according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, which based its report on a recording of the conference.
"Netanyahu said, 'You know, Steve, we have two main enemies,'" JTA quoted Linde as telling the conference. "And I thought he was going to talk about, you know, Iran, maybe Hamas. He said, 'It's The New York Times and Haaretz.' He said, 'They set the agenda for an anti-Israel campaign all over the world. Journalists read them every morning and base their news stories ... on what they read in The New York Times and Haaretz.'"
Linde also told the conference that when he and other participants at the meeting responded by asking Netanyahu whether he really thought the media had that big an impact on global attitudes toward Israel, the prime minister replied, "Absolutely," JTA reported.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister's Office released a statement denying that he ever said any such thing. According to the statement, Netanyahu - who is currently visiting The Netherlands - told the Dutch parliament's foreign affairs committee that he never called the two newspapers enemies of Israel, and that it is in fact Iran and its satellites, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, that are the country's greatest adversaries.
The Prime Minister's Office also asked Linde to issue a clarification, which he did: In a conversation with journalists later on Thursday, Linde said that Netanyahu never explicitly termed either Haaretz or The New York Times "enemies"; Linde's remarks at the Tel Aviv conference were merely his own interpretation of what the prime minister had told him at their meeting.
Last month, however, Netanyahu very publicly refused an invitation to write an op-ed for The New York Times, and in a blistering letter to the Times explaining why, senior Netanyahu aide Ron Dermer said the prime minister wouldn't be a party to "Bibiwashing" the paper's op-ed page. The paper's regular columnists, Dermer wrote, "consistently distort the positions of our government and ignore the steps it has taken to advance peace" and "cavalierly defame our country by suggesting that marginal phenomena ... somehow reflect government policy or Israeli society as a whole," yet it almost never offers space to guest columnists with more favorable views: Out of 20 op-eds on Israel published in September through November, "19 out of 20 were 'negative.'"
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