Israel's Attorney General Tells Defense Chief Not to Interfere at Army Radio

New Defense Minister Lieberman summoned Army Radio chief Yaron Dekel over broadcast about Palestinian national poet.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at a memorial ceremony for soldiers killed during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, June 6, 2016.
Gil Eliyahu

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit phoned Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman late Wednesday to remind him he has no authority to intervene in Army Radio’s programming.

Lieberman had summoned Army Radio chief Yaron Dekel because of a broadcast Tuesday night about Mahmoud Darwish, widely considered the Palestinian national poet. The broadcast was part of a series on formative Israeli texts.  

Lieberman’s predecessor, Moshe Ya’alon, then criticized the Soviet-born politician for trying to turn Army Radio into Pravda.     

Wednesday evening, Mendelblit based his instructions on a 2015 legal opinion by Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber, who said ministers were not allowed to interfere in the affairs of Army Radio’s two stations.

Zilber had to address the issue after Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev said the stations’ playlists did not sufficiently represent Israeli musicians with roots in the Middle East.

Olivier Fitoussi

This time around, Regev said the radio station had “gone off the rails” regarding the Darwish program.

According to Zilber’s 2015 opinion, the stations’ playlists reflected “a specific example of editorial content, therefore the legal rules listed concerning independent judgment are in force.”

Zilber said ministers did not have the authority to intervene in choosing songs played on the air, but Regev’s criticism was still legitimate criticism, not abuse of authority.

“Public statements and important criticism about the station and its operations are an inseparable part of the existence of the legitimate public discourse,” Zilber wrote.