Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assailed Israel's "fake news industry" at a support rally attended by thousands of Likud party activists on Wednesday evening. The event in Lod was scheduled in honor of the Jewish new year in three weeks’ time, planned earlier than usual so it could double as a rally in support of Netanyahu, the second such event in a month.
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Party organizers handed out pro-Netanyahu signs to those in attendance. In his speech, Netanyahu attacked the press: “The media prefer to present Israel as isolated and backwards. They simply don’t want Israelis to see the success.”
He then tried to demonstrate how the press has decided to work against him, calling out the “unfairness of the industry of gloom” and the “fake news” spread the day before by the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper in its report on his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.
“The fake news industry is at its peak,” said Netanyahu. “Look, for example, how they cover with unlimited enthusiasm, every week, the left-wing demonstrations. The same demonstrations whose goal is to apply improper pressure on law enforcement authorities so they will file an indictment [against me] at any price: ‘Netanyahu is guilty until he is proven innocent.’”
Police have questioned Netanyahu over allegations he received gifts from Hollywood and business figures. A separate probe is looking into secret talks with the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth in which Netanyahu allegedly requested positive coverage in exchange for reining in the free pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and says the allegations are part of a political witch hunt by hostile media.
Speaking about the press coverage of the rallies in support of him, Netanyahu said: “They are doing everything to hurt me and my wife because they think that if they bring me or her down, they will bring us down, Likud.” He said this is the same media that does not investigate “who finances the left’s demonstrations in Petah Tikva and has turned their leaders into the knights of the rule of law.”
Netanyahu said that over 2,000 people were inside the hall and apologized that another 2,000 remained outside because the space could not safely hold any more people.
“What a wonderful country we have,” he told the crowd. “From the dust of the Holocaust we built one of the most advanced and strongest nations in the world. Sometimes, in the heat of the argument, there are those among us who forget that. I will never forget it, you will never forget it.
“The truth is that our resolute security policy has brought Israel its quietest years in the past decades. Our consistent economic policy has made the economy grow and lowered inflation to the lowest level in over 40 years,” he continued.
Netanyahu said that he was holding the Rosh Hashanah event earlier than usual this year because of his upcoming “historic visit” to South and Central America, the first by a serving Israeli prime minister.
“They know that as long as we run the country they will lose at the ballot box. Because the support for us is only growing, and we see and feel it,” said Netanyahu, who then paraphrased the Bible: “But the more they afflicted us, the more we multiplied and the more we spread.”
MK David Bitan (Likud), the coalition whip, opened the gathering. Referring to Elul, the Jewish month of penitence before Rosh Hashanah, saying: “The Jewish people are commanded to make a personal self-reckoning in the month of mercy. I know a few for who this is a difficult task,” referring to media figures.
“There is truth, there is love, unity and friendship, and it is in this hall,” and the truth will be victorious, added Bitan.
A spokesman for Bitan and one of the organizers of the rally, Yossi Tatika, said the event did not cost much. “There is no caviar or pink Champagne here, but pastrami and tuna salad sandwiches,” the spokesman said in a reference to one of the gifts Netanyahu allegedly received from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
Attendees held signs bearing a number of slogans, but the attacks on the media were a central theme, including: “Enough with the putsch attempt” and “The media’s month of penitence.”
The residents of the unauthorized West Bank outpost of Migron called on Netanyahu to find a solution to their legal problems. Meanwhile, representatives of the disabled set up near the security check area. Demonstrators protesting across the street could be heard shouting.
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev told the protestors: “I have no doubt Netanyahu will be the next prime minister, get used to it.” She too said the press was unfair to Netanyahu, his wife, Sara Netanyahu, and their children.
The rally was the second such event in a month. At the beginning of August, some 3,000 people, including many ministers and Knesset members, attended a Likud rally in support of Netanyahu.