Analysis

With Tape Excerpts Making Daily Headlines, Netanyahu Launches Pathetic Attack on Media

He was the speaker on the tapes, he's the suspect and it was the attorney general who decided to launch investigations, but for Netanyahu, the media is to blame.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a Likud faction meeting on January 16, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is right; the parts of the dialogue between him and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes that are being broadcast every night on the “Guy Peleg show” on Channel 2 have been filtered and carefully selected, whether by the person who leaked them or the one reporting them. It’s too bad, but that’s how journalism works. The public is entitled to hear the recordings in their entirety, but not before the investigation is completed. It’s doubtful whether the prime minister’s legal and/or public status will improve once the whole picture is clear.

His attacks on the media Monday during the Likud faction meeting (“An incredible, orchestrated media campaign,” “The purpose is to exert pressure on law enforcement officials,” “It’s not editorial judgment but a desire for decapitation,” and so on) were pathetic. He was the speaker, he’s the suspect, he initiated the recordings, his loyal confidant was making the recordings, the attorney general was the one who decided on a criminal investigation – and the media is to blame.

When the same media exposed and covered the corruption cases involving Ariel Sharon (the Greek Island case and Cyril Kern), and exposed and reported on those involving Ehud Olmert (the Investment Center, Rishon Tours and Talansky cash-envelope cases) there was no greater media advocate and cheerleader than citizen/finance minister/opposition leader Netanyahu. 

And look who’s complaining about decapitations if not the chief decapitator and decimator of the Israeli media. This is the guy who brought us the biggest and most expensive political perk ever – the propaganda newspaper Israel Hayom, which wreaked havoc on the media market; the man who has been conducting a crazed world war against the public broadcasting corporation, the man who tried to close Channel 10; the man who insults and incites against journalists; the man who, by his own account, dismantled his government and dragged the country into early elections to prevent harm to the paper close to his heart. Pretty soon he’ll be asking for whistleblower protection from the state comptroller.

Netanyahu admitted on his Facebook page that one of the reasons he dissolved his government in December 2014 was his concern for the fate of the freebie and his desire to take revenge on his coalition partners – Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid, and Avigdor Lieberman – who had supported the so-called Israel Hayom bill that would have forced that paper to stop its free distribution. This will apparently be part of his defense strategy. But in affidavits he provided to the Central Elections Committee and the state comptroller, the prime minister categorically denied that he had any connection to Israel Hayom and its content. It will be interesting to see how he tries to reconcile that contradiction.

Now that Netanyahu has admitted that he advanced the elections to protect the financial interests of his friend and benefactor, casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, one may ask the following: Did he do this on the instructions of his patron? Can one conceive a scenario in which on the night of November 12, 2014, an angry call came to the Prime Minister’s Office from Las Vegas, Macao, or New York, with the baron ordering the prime minister to break up his government to prevent the bill from being legislated? 

Heaven forfend. That wouldn’t even be a banana republic. It would be a bad movie, the story of our lives.