The Foreign Press Association, which represents journalists from foreign news outlets stationed in Israel and the Palestinian territories, complained Monday of a lack of meaningful access to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office spokesperson Boaz Stempler, FPA chair Josef Federman, who is also The Associated Press bureau chief in Israel, wrote that the group finds it “troubling” that Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump “did not make themselves available for any questions” during Trump’s visit last week.
“Adding to these concerns, the prime minister mysteriously scheduled and then canceled a press briefing the following day to discuss the visit,” Federman added.
Trump, who was in Israel for a 28-hour visit, and Netanyahu gave statements to the press before their meeting, but did not take any questions from media.
“This is part of a broader problem,” Federman said in the letter, “that the prime minister rarely is available for questions on basic policy issues. With the exception of a lone event each year to celebrate the New Year, the international media has almost no opportunity to interview or pose questions to him.”
“Speaking to the media is a standard practice of leaders in democratic societies around the world,” Federman wrote. “At such an important time for the region, I believe it is even more critical for the prime minister to address the media and communicate his strategy. We hope that you will rethink your policies and provide some increased access to him.”
Netanyahu has a difficult relationship with the media, particularly the Israeli media, frequently accusing them of persecution him and his family.
Last week, Netanyahu’s wife Sara Netanyahu was overheard telling Melania Trump how Israel’s “first couple” had been treated unfairly by the media, but were loved by the people.
“You know in Israel all the people like us. The media hate us, but the people love us,” Sara Netanyahu told the first lady in a recording that picked up their private conversation. “Like you.”
“We have a lot in common,” Melania Trump replied. Sara Netanyahu, with a broad smile on her face, promised to continue the discussion “over dinner.”