Netanyahu under pressure
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Hebrew media review

Netanyahu under pressure

Hebrew dailies not impressed by PM's latest dismissal of allegations against him and takedown of police, accuse him of being 'petty' toward rivals

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Likud rally marking the Hanukkah holiday in Tel Aviv on December 19, 2017. (Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Likud rally marking the Hanukkah holiday in Tel Aviv on December 19, 2017. (Flash90)

Two of the three main Hebrew dailies are not impressed with the prime minister’s latest dismissal of allegations against him, accusing Benjamin Netanyahu of being “petty” toward his rivals.

In what has become a frequent ritual, Wednesday’s newspapers dissect every new development in the investigations against Netanyahu and scrutinize his words for signs of admission, pressure, or distress.

All three major Hebrew-language papers lead with the same quote from Netanyahu’s speech Tuesday at a rally for Likud party members, during which he discussed the likely possibility that police would recommend to the attorney general that charges be pressed against him. Netanyahu is a suspect in two corruption investigations, known as cases 1000 and 2000.

“If there will be recommendations [to indict me] — so what?” read the main headlines in Israel Hayom, Yedioth Ahronoth, and Haaretz. “The vast majority of police recommendations end with nothing.”

The columnists in Yedioth and Haaretz, not known for their love of Netanyahu, almost unanimously condemn the prime minister’s speech as divisive, petty, and full of falsehoods.

“For lies, no one has put a prime minister in prison,” writes Yedioth’s Nahum Barnea. “[But] Netanyahu is in such a difficult situation that he is willing to hang on to anything, even his nemesis [President Reuven] Rivlin, even to a story that never occurred.” Barnea is referring to the prime minister’s mention of the president during his speech, alleging that although investigations into Rivlin ended without charges, they had taken a severe toll on his reputation. Sources in the President’s Office, however, have already rejected Netanyahu’s comparison, noting that police had never recommended Rivlin be indicted.

President Reuven Rivlin delivers a speech at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on November 22, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“You are talking to us about respect?” screams Sima Kadmon’s headline in Yedioth. “What kind of respect do you have for the tens of thousands of protesters who are demonstrating against the corruption that has spread to every corner during your term.” During the rally, the prime minister claimed anti-corruption protests in Tel Aviv, held on Saturday nights for three consecutive weeks, were orchestrated by the New Israel Fund in order to topple his government. “The whole world sees the [country’s] achievements, the public sees them as well as the leftists in politics and the media,” Netanyahu said. “Because they see it, they know they cannot beat us at the polls. That’s why they are trying to defeat us with slander and demonstrations.

In Haaretz, Dan Margalit asserts that Netanyahu’s body language during the rally suggests he is “soaked with anxiety,” and that the Israeli leader’s face displayed a “fear of the unknown, of the mysterious, of the dark, of what is lurking in the future.” Yossi Verter, meanwhile, accuses Netanyahu of taking “petty” shots at his rivals in an attempt to clear his name.

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett (R) with Jewish Home MK and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in the Knesset plenum on November 16, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The pro-PM Israel Hayom diverts some attention from Netanyahu and focuses on Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s newly unveiled draft bill that would curb the authority of the High Court of Justice and Supreme Court in striking down Knesset legislation.

Contributor Haim Shine employs the oft-used but logically unsound argument according to which if you’re being attacked from both sides of the political spectrum, you must be doing something right.

“The current bill will be challenged from left and from right,” he writes. “The left will attempt to protect the ‘guardians at the gate,’ who have become a means to fix and pass laws that have not been approved by the Knesset. The right will claim that the courts still have the authority to strike down certain laws. That is a clear sign that the bill is a good one, worthy of serious debate and a speedy appliance, even if there will be some differences or others in the legislative process as long as the essence remains.”

Teva workers burn tires as part of a protest against the company’s plan to lay off hundreds of employees, outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on December 17, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yedioth, meanwhile, seems disgusted with the CEO of Israeli drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Kare Schultz, for flat-out dismissing requests by Israeli leaders to keep the company’s Jerusalem production plants open.

“This is the thanks for the billions from the state?” the paper’s headline asks rhetorically. Teva, one of the world’s largest generic makers of drugs and one of the nation’s largest employers, had been until recently a symbol of Israel’s industrial success. Last week, however, the company, which is dogged by debt, announced a restructuring plan that envisages the firing of 14,000 workers worldwide over the next two years — more than a quarter of its global workforce of over 55,000 — including some 1,750 in Israel.

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