National election, or proxy war between newspapers?
An Israeli soldier reads Yediot Aharonot
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu slams Yediot after Zionist Union campaign calls for Israel Hayom to be considered party of Likud campaign.
Likud and Zionist Union acted as soldiers in battle in the war between the top-circulated newspapers, Israel Hayom and Yediot Aharonot Monday.In a lengthy Facebook post, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Arnon Moses, the publisher of the Yediot daily and its website YNet, of being “the key factor behind the wave of smears against me and my wife.”According to Netanyahu, Moses would do anything to bring him and Likud down and close Israel Hayom, which is owned by American billionaire and Netanyahu ally, Sheldon Adelson.“In recent weeks, the attacks on me do not just appear once a day in the morning, when Yediot Aharonot is distributed. They are published almost every hour, and sometimes every half hour on YNet. These two platforms initiate welltimed ridiculous, false and biased mudslinging against me and my wife as part of a media campaign to replace the Likud government by a left wing one and allow Noni Moses to take over the media market again,” the post read. Netanyahu also accused the publications of using former Prime Minister’s residence workers, “who are trying to illegally get money from the state,” a reference to the residence’s disgruntled former superintendent, Meni Naftali.“I’m not saying all criticism against me comes from Noni Moses,” the prime minister added. “There are many in the press who do their job faithfully. They criticize the government in a way that is relevant, even if it is sharp.” However, Netanyahu wrote, Moses is doing something else entirely.“A business man with long arms in the media is running a systematic smear campaign against a sitting prime minister, to change the government of Israel, for clear business interests and personal monetary gain,” he asserted.“This is only the tip of the iceberg. I will expand on this.”Yediot’s top columnist Nachum Barnea told Israel Radio, in response to the post, that Netanyahu is paranoid and should be hospitalized.Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog mocked the prime minister for complaining: “We will replace him, not knock him down like he wrote in his whiny tweet.Stop whining!” Netanyahu’s lament came a day after Zionist Union accused Adelson of doing exactly the same thing the premier accused Moses of.The list’s campaign chairman MK Eitan Cabel called for the Central Elections Committee to require the cost of publishing Israel Hayom be taken out of Likud’s campaign budget in a press conference outside the newspaper’s Tel Aviv headquarters, and that if Netanyahu wanted to publish propaganda, he should pay for it.“Young people around the country know that the prime minister does not work for them, but for a gambling tycoon,” he said in reference to Adelson, who owns the Venetian Casino in Las Vegas, among others.Cabel was the author of a controversial bill that intended to put Israel Hayom out of business by banning free newspapers that are in the top three most-circulated dailies.At the event, Zionist Union activists gave out fake $100 bills with Netanyahu and Adelson’s faces on them, and casino chips with the latter’s visage.Also Sunday, an attorney named Shahar Ben-Meir petitioned the Central Elections Committee to order the Adelson-backed newspaper to avoid printing “election propaganda that it has been publishing for many years, for the candidate for the 20th Knesset, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, as it is illegal election campaigning.”According to Ben-Meir, Israel Hayom is a “propaganda platform for a candidate, which is disguised as a newspaper.”This is not the first time Ben-Meir was active on the media front. In 2013, The Marker reported, Ben-Meir opened a lawsuit without Haaretz’s support that was intended to help the newspaper.He sued Nochi Dankner, who was controlling shareholder of IDB Holding Corp. Ltd. at the time, for dropping its advertising in the left wing daily from 10 percent of IDB’s ads to only 0.4%, saying doing so would put the newspaper out of business.