Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday that he was in favor of closing the offices of Qatari channel Al-Jazeera, after several Arab states did so.
“There is no reason for Al-Jazeera to continue to transmit from Israel,” he told public radio. “It is not media, it is a propaganda outfit in the style of the Soviets or Nazi Germany.”
“All the reporting on Israel is biased and hostile, while the channel says nothing about Iran,” he added.
The defense minister made similar comments on Monday in the Knesset.
Asked when the bureau could be closed, he said Wednesday they were seeking a “legal solution.”
Quoted in Israeli media, the head of Al-Jazeera’s bureau said they would appeal any decision closing them down.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had raised the possibility of a closure on Monday, Israeli media reported.
Israeli leaders accuse the Qatari channel of supporting Hamas, the Palestinian terror group which controls the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu convened on Monday the first meeting between relevant agencies, including the Foreign Ministry, Shin Bet security service, Government Press Office and Defense Ministry, to explore the possibility of shutting the bureau, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported on Tuesday. Preliminary staff work for the move has begun in all four agencies.
Saudi Arabia and Jordan have already closed the al-Jazeera bureaus in their territories, but the move might be more difficult for Israel. Most of al-Jazeera’s 34 employees in Israel are Israeli citizens, according to the report, so their right to work in the country in any business that isn’t illegal is protected under the Basic Law: Freedom of Vocation. In addition, al-Jazeera would likely appeal to the High Court of Justice against any state move to shut it down, claiming freedom of the press.
Even if the courts approve the closure in the end, the process could delay the proceedings until after the current diplomatic crisis between Qatar and Sunni Arab states blows over.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt broke off relations with Qatar on June 5, accusing the gas-rich Gulf state of “supporting terrorism.”
The countries also banned Al-Jazeera, founded more than 20 years ago by the Qatari government, denouncing its “Islamist” orientations.
Al-Jazeera has nearly 80 offices around the world and broadcasts in several languages.