Likud Minister: It's Clear Netanyahu Wants to Block Critical Reports About Him

Growing anger inside ruling party at Netanyahu's move against public media broadcaster, but minister says: 'Any expression of opposition to it is seen as a betrayal.'

Netanyahu in the Likud election headquarters after the release of the exit polls, March 18, 2015.
Tomer Appelbaum

“Netanyahu’s move is intended to block critical reports about him, it's clear," senior Likud minister told Haaretz regarding the agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, by which the news division will be taken away from the incoming broadcasting corporation.

Ministers in the Likud still refused Sunday to publicly criticize Netanyahu over it, but one Likud minister, who asked not to be quoted by name, told Haaretz that “You have to understand that the Likud rank-and-file don’t care about the corporation. Any expression of opposition to it is seen as a betrayal of Netanyahu,” said the senior Likud figure opposed to the reforms said.

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For him, it is "clear that Netanyahu is trying, through the noise over changes to the corporation, to blunt public involvement with the other issues connected to him.” The minister was referring to investigations of Netanyahu as well as the conflict with the U.S. administration over the settlements.

MKs from other coalition parties, who spoke behind closed doors against the agreement, also refused to call Netanyahu out publicly.

The senior Likud figure opposed to the reforms said he believed the silence of his party colleagues stemmed from concerns that the Likud rank-and-file, who support Netanyahu, would extract retribution if Likud ministers publicly criticized the prime minister.

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“None of the Likud ministers will vote against the law, although there is quite a lot of criticism of it. When there is agreement across party lines to support the law, clearly the opposition of some Likud minister or other will not change the chances of its passing. You have to understand that the Likud rank-and-file don’t care about the corporation. Any expression of opposition to it is seen as a betrayal of Netanyahu.”

Voice in the wilderness 

MK Yehuda Glick was the only Likud lawmaker who openly criticized the move. “The truth is, there’s a very bad taste from this whole affair of the Broadcast Authority and the corporation. I expect the party leaders to provide explanations what happened, if they expect me to vote for laws about it,” he tweeted Sunday.

Glick’s party colleague, MK, coalition chairman MK David Bitan, slammed Glick for his remarks on Army Radio: “What kind of punishment can you inflict on a man who’s messianic, who’s only interested in going up to the Temple Mount and he doesn’t care about Likud. He doesn’t care about anything.”

In response, Glick said: “We were elected to serve the public and as such answers and explanations are expected from us. And so my request for answers and clarifications is not weird; it’s the most practical and obvious thing there is.”

Meretz announced Sunday that it would call a special recess session of the Knesset to discuss what it called Netanyahu’s takeover of the media. Meretz MK Ilan Gilon said Netanyahu has “marked the destruction of the media in Israel as his personal and political project. Now he’s trying to give the corporation’s employees the cup of sorrow he has given the employees of the Broadcasting Authority for the past two years. No employee, either of the Broadcasting Corporation or the Broadcasting Authority, should have to pay with their livelihood for the whims of the power-drunk prime minister and the finance minister who chickens out beneath him,” Gilon said.