Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday distanced himself from a segment on a webcast by his Likud Party making fun of the appearance of a prominent journalist injured in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
In the clip aired Thursday on the ruling party’s Facebook page, Likud TV presenter Eliraz Sadeh interviewed an actor whose face had been made-up to resemble Amnon Abramovitch.
Abramovitch, a frequent target of criticism by Netanyahu and some of his Likud supporters for his reporting on various graft suspicions surrounding the premier, was badly burned when his tank was hit in the 1973 war during fighting around the Suez Canal.
Asked by the actor how he looked, Sadeh replied, “you look like a missile, as always,” using Israeli slang for someone who looks good.
The clip was later deleted from Netanyahu’s Facebook page, but it remained on Likud’s account as of Saturday evening.
In an interview with Channel 12, Netanyahu said he did not know about the video beforehand and ordered it removed immediately upon learning about it, but did not directly apologize.
“Sometimes [people] do stupid things in campaigns. [They] did something stupid and are sorry for it,” he said.
Asked why the clip had stayed up on his Facebook page, Netanyahu said he “was busy with state affairs” and had it taken down upon learning about it.
The clip was the second embarrassing affair for the prime minister regarding the Likud TV webcast, launched last month and seemingly modeled on US President Donald Trump’s Real News Update.
In late February, Likud TV aired a segment with presenter standing in front of a picture of a military cemetery claiming that a victory by rival Benny Gantz would lead to hundreds of deaths.
After an outcry, Netanyahu ordered the segment taken down, and those responsible were suspended.
The prime minister accused the media of “one-sided hypocrisy” Saturday night, pointing to a segment by a satirist on the death of his brother, who was killed in the 1976 Entebbe raid, and other segments mocking the appearance of his wife, including one where she is portrayed as a pig.
“A pig, a pig, a pig,” Netanyahu repeated.
“What you’re doing here every evening is satire,” he added, accusing news broadcasters of “spilling my blood.”
Accusations of media bias have been a primary feature of Netanyahu’s re-election campaign, with the premier accusing reporters of playing up corruption charges to push him out of office.
Abramovitch, a reporter and prominent commentator, has covered the criminal investigations into Netanyahu,
A tank driver in the military, he received a military citation for bravery during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Abramovitch’s battalion was one of the first to arrive in the Suez region shortly after the outbreak of the war, and was hit during the fourth day of hostilities.
According to interviews given by fellow soldiers to the Ynet news site in 2016, Abramovitch drove his burning tank to a protected area as he sought to save his fellow soldiers, without realizing his commander and two others had been blown out of the vehicle by the force of the explosion. He underwent multiple surgeries to treat the wounds he received in the incident and his face still bears battle scars.
Last year, leaks from conversations between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes revealed complaints from the prime minister that Abramovitch “kills me every day” with critical opinion pieces.
The conversations form part of the basis of Case 2000, in which Netanyahu is alleged to have conspired with Mozes to economically hobble (including via Knesset legislation) the Sheldon Adelson-financed, pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom daily — a free tabloid that is the most-read paper in Israel — in return for favorable coverage by Yedioth and its sister website Ynet.
In January, Likud claimed a previously anonymous campaign against a number of journalists who have reported on criminal investigations involving Netanyahu, including Abramovitch. The billboard, which was put up at the Glilot Junction on Route 5 not far from Tel Aviv, showed pictures of reporters Abramovitch and Guy Peleg from Channel 12 news, Channel 13’s Raviv Drucker, and Ben Caspit of the Maariv daily. Above them was written: “They will not decide” — apparently referring to the results of the April 9 elections.
Last October, Netanyahu’s son Yair called veteran journalist Abramovitch “a garbage can” and “a Soviet propagandist.”
On Saturday, Netanyahu said his son “was his own person, and I am my own person.”