Al-Jazeera rejects Netanyahu’s call for closure of Jerusalem office
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Al-Jazeera rejects Netanyahu’s call for closure of Jerusalem office

Qatar-owned station denies it foments violence, says it will use all legal measures to prevent Israel from shuttering its bureau

Workers at the al-Jazeera offices in Jerusalem on June 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Workers at the al-Jazeera offices in Jerusalem on June 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Al Jazeera network on Thursday hit back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “hostile” call to close its Israel bureau, dismissing Israel’s allegations of incitement to violence.

In a statement, the Qatar-based satellite station said it “denounces such arbitrary accusations and hostile statements,” after Netanyahu said he had asked law enforcement authorities to shutter the station’s local offices.

“Al Jazeera stresses that it would take all necessary legal measures in case they act on their threat,” it said.

The station also rejected the prime minister’s claim that it incited violence.

“The network moreover reiterates that it will continue covering the news and events of the occupied Palestinian territories, and elsewhere, both professionally and objectively,” the statement said.

Netanyahu had said he would look for ways to shutter Al Jazeera in Israel, accusing the network of inciting violence.

“I have appealed to law enforcement agencies several times to close the Al Jazeera office in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu wrote on Facebook on Wednesday night. “If this is not possible because of legal interpretation, I am going to seek to have the necessary legislation adopted to expel Al Jazeera from Israel.”

“Al Jazeera has not stopped fomenting violence around the Temple Mount,” he said, referring to escalating tensions surrounding Muslim protests against Israeli security measures at the holy site.

The security measures were put in place following a July 14 terror attack in which three terrorists shot two Israeli policemen to death with weapons that had been smuggled onto the compound. Israel shut the site for two days and re-opened it with new security arrangements including metal detectors and cameras.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu items found in a weapons factory discovered in the West Bank city of Hebron, during a visit to the IDF West Bank Division, near the Israeli settlement of Beit El, January 10, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu items found in a weapons factory discovered in the West Bank city of Hebron, during a visit to the IDF West Bank Division, near the Israeli settlement of Beit El, January 10, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A number of Arab countries have recently shut down their local Al Jazeera offices amid an ongoing spat with Qatar but Israel, which often touts its press freedoms, has allowed the station to continue operating.

After Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other states announced they were imposing sanctions on Doha and the station in June, Netanyahu reportedly met with Israeli officials to explore the possibility of shutting down the station in Israel.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said at the time that the diplomatic isolation of Qatar had provided Israel with an “opportunity” to get rid of Al Jazeera and win points with potential Gulf allies.

“Some [Arab countries’] interests overlap with Israeli interests, including the issue with Al Jazeera,” Liberman said last month.

“Al Jazeera is not media, it’s not journalism. It’s an incitement machine. It’s pure propaganda, of the worst variety, in the style of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia,” he added.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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