Analysis

Israeli TV Just Let Netanyahu Manipulate It in Aggressive Campaign Move

The prime minister rudely pounced on his interviewers from home, while all other party leaders were asked to come to the studio. But this time he didn't deny his tricks

Netanyahu interviewed by Channel 13's Ayala Hasson, September 14, 2019.
Channel 13 News

The two commercial television channels that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often besmirches, and the public television channel that he has threatened to close if he’s reelected, hosted him Saturday night, as they did the heads of the other parties. (For the latest election polls – click here)

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 39Haaretz

All the other party leaders were requested to appear at the studio. Netanyahu, however, was interviewed by TV in his living room, with the Israeli flag behind him. This was a shameful surrender to his demand, and a huge disgrace to the entire left (as well as to the right and the ultra-Orthodox).

>> Three days to election, master wizard Netanyahu ramps up efforts to mesmerize Israeli voters | Analysis ■ The only real question still looming over Israel's repeat election | Analysis

No media in any enlightened country grants preferential treatment to one candidate over his opponents – even if he’s the leader in power. They all bother to show up at the studios based on the equal rules of the game.

That’s the heart of democracy. If we thought Channel 2 had learned a lesson from the shame of the 2015 election when Isaac Herzog sat in the studio with Netanyahu above him on a huge monitor, it turns out it hasn’t. The more incitement it endures, the more it knuckles under and is humiliated.

The only debate in this election was between Netanyahu and his interviewers, mainly with Michal Rabinovich of the Kan public broadcaster and Rina Matzliah of Channel 12. Less so with Ayala Hasson of Channel 13. With typical rudeness, getting the most out of playing the victim, he pounced on them, insulted them and mocked them and their media outlets, which showed him huge favoritism.

He behaved like a man who breaks into a house, robs everything and destroys anything he can’t take with him, and then complains about how heavy the load is.

Also, remember his legendary response to Keren Marciano just before the April election of “What? Of course not.” That was when she asked him whether if elected he would promote legislation that would keep him from going on trial. This time he didn’t deny tricks to obtain criminal immunity and restrictions on the power of the High Court to strike down laws.

Apparently he learned his lesson. The inevitable conclusion is that if he reaches the lucky number of 61 Knesset seats to form a right-wing/ultra-Orthodox bloc, the plan that was shelved due to the dissolution of the Knesset will be set in motion, in full or in part – immunity or limiting the power of the High Court or both, to evade trial.

There’s no limit to the swamp of lies and cheap manipulations with which Netanyahu has brought down this election campaign. On Friday we saw him on his Facebook page recycling a despicable fake news report from the American far right. It seems to have been concocted just for him – that an adviser to former U.S. President Barack Obama who now works for Kahol Lavan’s Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid is responsible for the story of Israel’s alleged attempted spying on the United States. That’s like the U.S. president quoting a report by right-wing activist and pundit Shimon Riklin. Who knows; we haven’t seen anything yet.

So the world goes about its business. The past few days have brought the expected blitz of interviews with the man who around election time only gives his time to foreign news outlets. No conclusions can be drawn from the most recent opinion polls published Friday. The past has shown that the gaps between the surveys and the actual vote can be great.

What do the polls have in common? A slight strengthening of the right, touching those 61 seats that Netanyahu needs to establish a narrow government, an immunity government, a government that will pounce on and take apart law enforcement officials. On the other hand, the far-right Otzma Yehudit might not make it into the Knesset. But if the Labor Party, which is quivering around the four seats needed to pass the electoral threshold, fails, Netanyahu’s chances will improve.

Plenty of politicians will have to do some soul-searching on the day after the election, and maybe before. Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz, who didn’t let his party join with Meretz and Ehud Barak’s Democratic Israel, argued that only if he ran with Gesher chief Orli Levi-Abekasis would he win 15 seats and help oust Netanyahu. What’s been ousted so far is only Peretz’s mustache and Knesset seats.