Israeli journalist suspended after tweet linking terror attack to Ben Gvir statement

Army Radio police correspondent Hadas Shtaif barred from reporting on bombings for a day after suggesting that Otzma Yehudit chief’s visits to Temple Mount could spark attacks

Israeli journalist Hadas Shtaif seen at the Lod Magistrate's Court on December 12, 2019. (Flash90)
Israeli journalist Hadas Shtaif seen at the Lod Magistrate's Court on December 12, 2019. (Flash90)

A well-known Israeli reporter was suspended from Army Radio after a tweet linking Wednesday’s terror attacks in Jerusalem to recent comments by presumed future minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

Shortly after the early morning attacks in the capital, Hadas Shtaif, a veteran police reporter with Army Radio, posted a tweet appearing to tie the bombings to Ben Gvir’s vow to continue to visit the Temple Mount even after joining the next cabinet.

“We began this morning with two terror attacks in Jerusalem. It looks like explosives are coming back on the scene along with knives, rocks and shootings,” Shtaif tweeted. “An escalation. The forecast? A string of attacks.”

Shtaif attached a screenshot to the tweet showing a headline about Ben Gvir telling Likud he will continue to visit the Temple Mount.

“The designated public security minister… this announcement of yours from this morning? The police officers and Border Police fighters who will be harmed will be on your head,” she added, seemingly using intentionally vague language.

Speaking on the radio shortly after the attack, Shtaif said that she had heard from police sources that the attack could be linked to ongoing reports “about the desire to appoint this or that person to this or that position,” a reference to the ongoing coalition talks, but without naming anyone.

Army Radio quickly released a statement saying that Shtaif’s comments “are being clarified,” and that she would not be reporting on the terror attack “until the end of the clarification.”

Police and security personnel at the scene of a terror attack in Jerusalem, on November 23, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussil/ Flash90)

Shtaif later tweeted that she had not been fired, and had merely been suspended from reporting about the terrorist attacks for the rest of the day.

“All those coming at me can have a party — don’t forget to invite me,” tweeted Shtaif, who is known for being outspoken. She added that she had received a message from someone telling her: “Tweet. Remember that a right-wing government is on the way. Die.”

Presumed prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the midst of fervent attempts to build a governing coalition following the November 1 national election. Ben Gvir, the head of the extreme-right Otzma Yehudit, has demanded the position of public security minister, which oversees the police, and is expected to receive the job.

Following Shtaif’s suspension, Ben Gvir tweeted that he hopes her temporary ban becomes permanent.

“Hadas Shtaif used the microphone that Army Radio gave her to support terrorism, to incite against me, and even to file a false report,” Ben Gvir tweeted. “I am the first who will fight for the freedom of speech of journalists, but anyone who encourages terrorists to carry out attacks and looks for justification should not be aired on Army Radio.”

Otzma Yehudit MK Itamar Ben Gvir at the scene of an explosion in Jerusalem, November 23, 2022. (Courtesy Otzma Yehudit)

The likelihood that the far-right figure will hold the position of public security minister has worried many in Israel’s security establishment as well as a range of foreign allies.

US officials have indicated that they will quietly boycott Ben Gvir and are unlikely to meet with him. Ben Gvir has a history of inflammatory behavior including several convictions for incitement, and was barred last year from visiting the Temple Mount — while Netanyahu was prime minister — over fears it would spark further violence.

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