Netanyahu Asks Party Members Not to 'Legitimize' News Channel Confab by Attending

Prime minister’s request marks new phase in his war against what he and his son Yair have dubbed 'propaganda channels'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked politicians from his Likud party not to participate in a conference sponsored by Channel 12 News featuring Israeli political and military figures.

The event is due to be held in Tel Aviv on September 5, less than two weeks prior to the September 17 Knesset election.

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The prime minister’s request that his party colleagues stay away from the event sponsored by Israel’s most watched commercial television station is a new phase in his war against what he and his son Yair have dubbed “propaganda channels.”

At a meeting this week with a group of Likud cabinet ministers and Knesset members, Netanyahu urged them not to accept invitations from Israeli television stations “so as not to grant them legitimacy.” Later in his comments, he made specific reference to Channel 12’s conference, to which the prime minister had been invited but declined the invitation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting, August 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

An official invitation on Channel 12’s website mentions the names of just three senior Likud politicians as slated to be interviewed at the conference – Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev and Knesset member Gideon Sa’ar. From what Haaretz has determined, none of the three has withdrawn from the event, as far as is known, but Regev’s office informed Channel 12 on Thursday that she was reconsidering the invitation.

Among the others due to appear at the conference are President Reuven Rivlin, nearly all leaders of the parties that are predicted to make it into the next Knesset and other leading personalities from politics and the defense establishment.

Up to now, Netanyahu has not barred Likud members from being interviewed on various Channel 12 programs. They continue to appear on the station, based on explicit instructions from Likud campaign headquarters, which has been dispatching party representatives non-stop for various media appearances.

In recent months, Netanyahu and his son, Yair, have posted a range of items on social media, including remarks blasting the media, and Channel 12 in particular. Most of this had to do with media reporting of transcripts of witness accounts to investigators in the three criminal investigations pending against the prime minister.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has scheduled a hearing for October 2 to give Netanyahu the opportunity to be heard prior to a final decision on indicting the prime minister.