Netanyahu's Party Escalates Attack on Media With Billboard Blasting Journalists

Likud claims responsibility for sign that originally appeared without party logo, a day after Netanyahu publishes video targeting AG regarding decision on corruption probes

A billboard depicting leading journalists in northern Tel Aviv with the slogan 'They won't decide,' January 18, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party took ownership Sunday over a controversial billboard attacking leading Israeli journalists as the party ramps up criticism of the left and the media ahead of the April 9 elections.

The billboard, which was erected Sunday morning at a prominent intersection in the center of the country, depicts prominent journalists who regularly report on Netanyahu's corruption cases. Signed by Likud, it bears the slogan: "They won't decide. You decide. In spite of it all, Netanyahu!"

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On Friday, a similar billboard was put up at a major intersection in northern Tel Aviv, with no indication of who was behind it.

Also on Friday, a Facebook page also titled "They won't decide" was opened. "The media has been trying for years to systematically drip to us messages of hate against Netanyahu," a post published on that page read.

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According to information available on Facebook, the page is promoted and targeted at users who follow Netanyahu's official page.

The billboards are part of a campaign by Netanyahu and the Likud, which equates a decision by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to indict Netanyahu in the corrpution cases against him with a surrender to the left and the media.

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Mendelblit is expected next month to indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing, on charges of bribery in the Bezeq-Walla news-for-favors case – one of several corruption investigations involving the prime minister – a senior justice official said Saturday.

A video released by Netanyahu on Saturday opens with a text reading: “For three years the left and the media have been chasing after Mendelblit to indict at any cost,” accompanied by dramatic background music.

Short clips are then shown of protests that have been held near Mendelblit’s house since November 2016, as well as other protests against him. “In the grocery, in the street, at synagogue,” the video says, ending with: “Will they succeed?”

Following publication of the video, Justice Ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen wrote on his private Twitter account that “Only the evidence will speak. Any other publication – needless noise.”

The Justice Ministry spokesman reiterated statements similar to what  Mendelblit has said in the past, writing that the attorney general’s decision is not influenced by either the media or protests. “Not videos, not billboards and not protesters, not quotes by ‘associates,” and fake leaks – only professional considerations will be taken into account in the attorney general’s decision on the prime minister’s cases.”