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Defense minister says he is sticking to plan to shut Army Radio

Benny Gantz tells the Knesset that ‘IDF soldiers must be kept as far as possible from any political involvement’

Defense Minister Benny Gantz addresses the Knesset on October 15, 2020. (Gideon Sharon/Knesset Spokesperson)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz addresses the Knesset on October 15, 2020. (Gideon Sharon/Knesset Spokesperson)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz reiterated on Wednesday his belief that Army Radio should not continue in its current format as part of the Israel Defense Forces.

“I think that IDF soldiers must be kept as far as possible from any political involvement, and the station should be apolitical, and it has long stopped being so,” Gantz said in response to a query from Shas MK Moshe Abutbul on the Knesset floor. “I don’t think there is any way to operate Army Radio in its current form, largely due to the political angle.”

During the recent election period, Gantz said, the attorney general ruled that the matter could not be addressed until a new government was formed.

“I hope that with the establishment of the new government, I can return to deal with this issue,” the defense minister said.

For several years, the IDF has sought to remove Army Radio from the military and the Defense Ministry’s purview. In January, Gantz announced a plan to separate Army Radio from the IDF once and for all, a move that had long been expected but had been repeatedly delayed so as to avoid shuttering the station for good.

A soldier-reporter for Israel’s Army Radio, November 11, 2019. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

The military’s operating, and funding, a radio station with journalists responsible for investigating the IDF itself, as well as politicians, has long been considered anachronistic, expensive and an ethical minefield. The decision to finally jettison Army Radio from the military came after a fresh request from the IDF chief of staff last summer.

Army Radio — one of the most listened-to news stations in the country — is staffed by a mix of young soldiers and seasoned journalists. The station’s position as a media outlet has thus always been an uneasy one, functioning simultaneously, and sometimes discordantly, as an independent news organization that seeks to critique the government and as an arm of the Israeli military dedicated to covering the troops and furthering the narrative of the military as an area of national consensus.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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