Former defense minister says Netanyahu tried to ‘take over’ Army Radio
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Former defense minister says Netanyahu tried to ‘take over’ Army Radio

Moshe Yaalon claims he thwarted PM's attempt to exert influence over popular station; Army Radio's ex-chief: 'I don't know what he was talking about'

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an IDF base on March 10, 2015. (Ohad Zwigenberg)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an IDF base on March 10, 2015. (Ohad Zwigenberg)

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Thursday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of trying to “take over” Army Radio, one of Israel’s main news radio stations which is part of the IDF. In response, the station’s chief said he hasn’t faced significant pressure from the premier.

In an interview with the radio station, Ya’alon, who has previously announced he will run in the next Knesset elections as the head of a new political party, slammed Netanyahu for attacking law enforcement authorities and the media, and accused him of careening the country “off the rails.”

Ya’alon said that, as defense minister, before he quit his post and the Knesset in 2016 following disagreements with Netanyahu, “I fought against his attempts to delegitimize the Supreme Court and the rule of law.”

“It was the same with the media,” he added. “What, hadn’t he tried to take over Army Radio? I didn’t let him.”

Netanyahu has been accused of seeking to manipulate the media in Israel to garner favorable coverage.

Police have recommended indicting Netanyahu in Case 2000, which involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

He has also been questioned as a suspect in Case 4000, which involves suspicions that Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of the telecommunications giant Bezeq, ordered the Walla news site, which he owns, to grant positive coverage to Netanyahu and his family in exchange for the prime minister advancing regulations benefiting Elovitch.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in all the cases.

Army Radio Commander Yaron Dekel, at a conference at the Israel Institute of Democracy, May 24, 2016. (FLASH90)

“Benjamin Netanyahu is done,” charged Ya’alon, who has not been in the political arena for almost two years. “He has veered off the rails and is causing the country to go off the rails.”

He accused Netanyahu’s political partners of staying silent “for political reasons, and not for leadership considerations taking into account the benefit of the country.”

They have been “creating a web of lies over things that should’ve blown up,” Ya’alon said.

Later on Thursday, Yaron Dekel, the former commander of Army Radio (2012-17), which is technically a unit in the Israeli military, commented on the remarks.

“I don’t know what Ya’alon was talking about when he said Netanyahu was trying to take over Army Radio,” he said, adding that he may have been referring to attempts to get rid of Dekel himself.

“I can only estimate that Netanyahu wanted at the end of [my] term to appoint a commander associated with him,” Dekel said. “Ya’alon extended [my] term despite the prime minister’s will. I think that is what he meant. I didn’t encounter significant pressure during my term.”

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