Netanyahu's Campaign Against Raviv Drucker, His Least Favorite Journalist

The Israeli journalist finds his integrity targeted with charges that he fabricated a story to hurt the career of a senior military figure, a campaign Netanyahu has signed onto enthusiastically.

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Haaretz Daily Cartoon - November 17, 2016
Haaretz Daily Cartoon - November 17, 2016Credit: Amos Biderman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives few interviews, rarely holds press conferences and frequently uses social media to bash and denigrate the press.

Lately, however, the Israeli leader’s hostility to the media has gone a step further, zeroing in on a specific journalist.

The target of his wrath has been Raviv Drucker, current host of the investigative show “The Source,” a columnist at Haaretz and long an irritant for Netanyahu, who has, in the past, sued him and attempted to have him fired. In the past week alone, the prime minister has decried Drucker’s reporting on two investigative stories – one exposing the role of Netanyahu's attorney in brokering a German submarine sale to Israel and another reporting on favors that Netanyahu’s son, Yair, took from Australian billionaire James Packer. In both cases, Netanyahu denounced Drucker in angry Facebook posts.

Drucker now finds his journalistic integrity the target of a wider campaign to discredit him with charges that he fabricated a story in order to hurt the career a senior military figure, a campaign that Netanyahu has signed onto enthusiastically.

The salvo against Drucker began on Sunday with an interview on the Army Radio program of Erel Segal, a popular right-wing journalist and broadcaster. On Segel’s show, Oded Savuray – an attorney and friend of Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter, commander of the Givati infantry brigade during Operation Protective Edge – accused Drucker of deliberately attempting to sabotage Winter’s promotion to his current post four years ago.

Raviv Drucker, current host of the investigative show 'The Source,' a columnist at Haaretz and long an irritant for Netanyahu.Credit: Dudu Bachar

Saying that he could “no longer hold back” what he called a “targeted attack” on Winter that had never before been made public, Savuray charged that in 2012, Drucker sent a young man to Winter’s office wearing a wire who said he was a former soldier of Winter’s who called him saying he was troubled by a past incident. His goal, Savuray hypothesized, was to record an admission by Winter that he had ordered the unjustified shooting of a Palestinian boy and had perhaps made an attempt to cover it up or whitewash it.

According to Savuray, Winter told the young man – who said he had participated in the shooting at Winter’s command – that he had no recollection of such an incident and recommended that he seek psychiatric help. Then – after Winter’s clerk passed him a note which said he was suspicious that the man was recording him – he confronted the young man who confessed he had been sent with multiple recording devices by Raviv Drucker with the goal of making a recording that would prevent Winter’s promotion because “we decided that you will not get that position."

After the accusation hit the headlines, Drucker countered in a Facebook post with his own version of events: He said that he had been approached by a former soldier who told him that on Winter’s command, he and Winter opened fire at a boy in Gaza, without justification. The former soldier, he said, did go to Winter’s office to record a conversation and extract an admission of guilt, willingly wearing a wire. Ultimately, he said, the story never aired because the young man had second thoughts and changed his mind about going public against Winter, and so the story was spiked.

The timing of the Army Radio revelation regarding the 2012 incident was a strategic, preemptive strike against another story that was set to air on Drucker’s Channel 10 show on Tuesday night regarding Winter’s alleged mishandling of a headline-grabbing sexual harassment scandal within his brigade. Savoray said he was revealing the 2012 story in order to emphasize Drucker’s biases against his client, which he said stem from the fact that Winter is right-wing and Orthodox.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu climbs out of the Rahav, a submarine widely believed to be capable of firing nuclear missiles, Haifa, Israel, January 12, 2016.Credit: Baz Ratner, Reuters

Even though the story accusing Drucker of unethical behavior and nefarious motives presumably wasn’t orchestrated by the prime minister, it was perfectly timed. Netanyahu took to Facebook – his preferred social network – and posted an online article on the controversy headlined “How Raviv Drucker Tried to Bring Down Gen. Ofer Winter” with biting commentary.

In the post, Netanyahu said “the Israeli people know full well” that a nefarious “corporation” exists against him which includes Channel 10, Drucker and another media enemy he frequently mentions, Noni Mozes, owner of Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

Netanyahu charged that “Channel 10 airs false propaganda against me and my family every night, with the goal of bringing down a Likud prime minister.” He added: “But apparently that isn’t sufficient for Channel 10 and Drucker. Today journalist Erel Segal reported about a false plot concocted against Gen. Ofer Winter to thwart his appointment as Givati brigade commander. If it is proven true, it’s simply shocking. It will be interesting to see if Drucker, the darling of the New Israel Fund, who keeps launching balloons filled with hot air against my family and myself, calling for criminal investigations, will also demand an investigation into the serious accusations that Erel Segel made against him.”

Finally, in a Trump-like broadside, he said Channel 10 “was a radical left-wing channel, and so it is no wonder that its ratings are so low.”

Backing up Netanyahu was Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a personal friend of Winter’s, who also demanded that Channel 10 take steps against Drucker.

Australian billionaire James Packer greets Sara Netanyahu in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., March 3, 2015.Credit: Chip Somodevilla, AFP

Drucker’s colleagues have leapt to his defense, pointing out that over the course of his career in journalism, Drucker has published extensive and damaging investigative stories involving politicians from various parties, including former prime ministers Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, making allegations that he is pursuing specific vendettas against Netanyahu, the right, or Orthodox, patently absurd.

In defense of Drucker, Channel 10 said he behaved properly as a journalist, that he was not out to target or bring down anyone and that his goal was merely to uncover evidence that would either back up or discredit the claims of his source, as it always is.

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