Judging by the barrage of angry op-eds spread out across the front pages of today’s Hebrew-language newspapers, it seems many pundits were personally offended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusations against the left and the media.
The Israeli leader claimed during a rally held by his Likud party in Tel Aviv last night that Israel’s media was using the ever-widening corruption investigations against him and his family to try to oust him from power.
“Bibi has returned to the terrace,” Yedioth Ahronoth’s Nahum Barnea writes, referring to Netanyahu’s attendance at a massive protest in Jerusalem’s Zion Square in 1995 against then-prime minister Yitzahk Rabin, one month before the Israeli leader was assassinated by right-wing extremist Yigal Amir.
To this day, many on the left accuse Netanyahu of turning a blind eye to incitement and calls for violence at the Zion Square rally, as some protesters had labeled Rabin a traitor to the Jewish people for his role in the establishment of the Oslo Accords — a set of agreements between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization aimed at achieving regional peace.
“Those same hand gestures,” Barnea writes of Netanyahu’s appearance last night. “Those same blanket accusations, libelous, against an imagined, demonic enemy; the same demagoguery, the same incitement… that same sarcasm, those same manipulations.”
Coalition chairman David Bitan, one of Netanyahu’s strongest backers, said he organized last night’s rally because the prime minister was being “persecuted” by the media and an opposition unable to defeat him at the ballot box. Netanyahu, speaking to a crowd of some 3,000 supporters, focused heavily on the alleged illicit bid to oust him, and even asserted that the investigations surrounding him were part of an organized “coup against the government.”
“Who even wants to topple Likud?” Yedioth’s Sima Kadmon asks rhetorically. “The State Prosecution? The police? The media? And who even accuses Likud of anything? We are talking about probes against the prime minister, who is cynically and cleverly tying himself to Likud, merging himself and his family along with Likud into one mass.”
The same anti-Netanyahu spirit clearly emanates from the opinion pieces in the left-leaning Haaretz, although the contributors to the daily take a much less defensive stance on the matter than their counterparts in Yedioth.
“He is S-C-A-R-E-D,” Yossi Verter writes of the prime minister, referring to a 1999 election speech in which Netanyahu claimed the media was afraid of the electoral power of his political base. “The prime minister suspected of bribery and fraud [stoked the flames] in front of thousands of excited supporters, in a Trumpesque event that had never been seen before in our area, at least when it comes to a ruling party,” Verter continues. “The only party leader who ever organized such a rally for himself was Aryeh Deri, two decades ago. We all remember how that ended.” Deri, who heads the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, served a prison sentence for graft offenses that took place during his previous tenure as interior minister in the 1990s.
Barak Ravid, Haaretz’s diplomatic correspondent, asserts that as the investigations into the prime minister’s conduct deepen, Netanyahu will turn more and more towards the right. Ravid explains that Netanyahu has already framed the conversation in such a way as to indicate his ouster would result in a catastrophic security situation for Israel.
“The prime minister claimed that just as the left and the media brought about the dismissal of [Likud leader and former prime minister] Yitzhak Shamir and instead brought to power the Rabin government which promoted the Oslo accords, so too now the left and the media were attempting to oust [Netanyahu] in order to establish a Palestinian state,” Ravid writes. However, Ravid adds, “these are spins whose merit is doubtful in light of recent surveys, which show that the public does not believe in the conspiracy theories he is attempting to spread.”
Meanwhile, Israel Hayom, despite its recent under-the-radar breakup with Netanyahu, affectionately labels the prime minister’s speech last night as “forceful,” and the messages from the only op-ed dealing with the rally are all but identical to those promoted by the Israeli leader himself. “It is not Netanyahu — the private man — who is under an evil attack, constant and unfair, but he as a leader of the conservative-right political camp,” Israel Hayom publicist Dror Eydar claims. “It is not the seeking of truth that stands before our eyes here, and not an honest attempt to eliminate corruption, but a pretty clear use of numerous accusations in order achieve old political goals.”
It may still take quite a while before anything having to do with the investigations into Netanyahu’s alleged misconduct is settled, but the papers today indicate pretty clearly that the accusations from left and right over the affairs involving the prime minister will only get uglier as time goes by.