Senior Minister Attacks Netanyahu: Branding Critics as Leftists Doesn't Work Anymore

A member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet reacts to the controversy generated by top Israeli journalist's expose about the prime minister's inner sanctum.

Jonathan Lis
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan.Credit: Hadas Parush / Flash 90, Tali Meir
Jonathan Lis

A senior member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet criticized him on Tuesday for slamming journalist Ilana Dayan's televised expose of his inner sanctum.

"Netanyahu's routine branding of anyone who argues with him as a 'leftist' doesn't work anymore," the minister said, a first reaction to the controversy by a member of Israel's government.

"Likud members no longer buy the attempt to turn Erdan, Katz, Saar, Lieberman, Bennett and Shaked into leftists because they don't agree with his (Netanyahu's) whims," the minister said.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, former cabinet minister Gideon Saar , Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, Eduation Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked are political rivals of Netanyahu.

Culture Minister Miri Regev came to Netanyahu's defense, writing on her Facebook page "the prime minister yesterday redefined the rules of the game with journalists acting out of political and personal motives."

She praised Netanyahu's spouse, Sara, for pursuing public service"despite the ugly smear campaign she's going through."

"Unfortunately some of the media are motivated by political and personal interests and link their journalistic work to one goal, toppling right wing rule. It won't succeed," Regev also said.

Dayan read out a scathing attack by Netanyahu against her investigative story on the Channel 2 Uvda program on Monday night. Adding insult to injury, Netanyahu said further that Dayan's show "demonstrates" why all Israeli media ought to undergo reform.

The program revealed suggestions based on interviews with former senior officials that Netanyahu had passed over promoting a Mossad deputy to head the organization because the official declined to pledge his loyalty to the prime minister.

The findings also accused Netanyahu's spouse, Sara Netanyahu, of playing a significant role in appointments of political and security officials.

Netanyahu responded to the findings with a strongly worded personal assault on Dayan's integrity, and a more general attack on the Israeli press. 

He accused Dayan, one of Israel's most prominent journalists, of lacking "even a drop of professional integrity," and denounced her as a member of the "extreme left."

The statement further alleged that "Dayan's hatred of the prime minister is known," and charged that "in the guise of a journalist Dayan is mainly a cover for political propaganda."  

Netanyahu also widened his attack to the Israeli media in general, saying:

"The general public has long ago lost trust in the main media organizations which know no limits in their propaganda against the prime minister and the Likud government."

He said further that Dayan's show on Monday "demonstrates perfectly why the media industry needs to undergo reform," alluding to public controversy over Netanyahu's attempt to stymie a new broadcast corporation that had been due to replace the state-owned Israel Broadcast Authority early next year.

"The prime minister is determined to open the market up to competition which will add a variety of more opinions, as well as an efficient national broadcaster," he said.

Dayan said on Tuesday she found it illogical for a prime minister as strong as Netanyahu to take such offense at her expose about his bureau, broadcast on Channel 2 television on Monday.

Dayan told Army Radio that Netanyahu "is not my enemy, and I'm not his enemy, either, I don't threaten him."

Netanyahu also came under attack by opposition lawmakers.

Isaac Herzog head of the Zionist Union party demanded Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit "investigate the worrisome findings" of Dayan's program, and Netanyahu's reaction, which he slammed as "serious and offensive incitement, to the extent of posing a serious threat to independent journalist, such as we have never seen before in Israel."

Zionist Union said further that "gradually Israel is deteriorating to a KGB state in which the authorities seek to attack the gatekeepers of the media and judicial systems."

Lawmaker Zehava Galon of the Meretz Party said that "if anyone had any doubts about Neanyahu's credentials to serve as prime minister, his response to Ilana Dayan has answered that question."

"Bibi's reaction is a paranoid loss of control and to tell the truth, it's frightening. Only two days past the memorials for Yitzhak Rabin and already Netanyahu is putting on a show of incitement of a kind only seen in Type C dictatorships," Galon said.

The Likud responded: "The time has come for media figures in Israel to understand that when they have the freedom to criticize the prime minister, the prime minister also has a right to criticize them. For some reason, when journalists go unchecked and disparage the prime minister and his family, it is never presented as incitement, but when the prime minister presents facts about the political inclinations of those journalists it is always presented as incitement. Most of the public has long understood that there is a double standard and a lot of prejudice here."

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