Yair Netanyahu, the 25-year-old son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, played a central role in pushing for the controversial bill banning mosques from using loudspeaker systems for the Muslim call to prayer, according to a news report Wednesday.
Officials within the Netanyahu government told Channel 10 that the prime minister has been outspoken in favor of the legislation at the insistence of Yair, the TV network claimed.
According to the report, the prime minister has brought up the issue at several government meetings, charging that as a resident of Caesarea he could not bear the noise from a nearby mosque in the neighboring Arab town of Jisr al-Zarqa.
He also spoke of hosting a foreign leader in his home who asked him why he does not do something about the disturbance caused by the call to prayer.
The bill is set for a first Knesset reading next week.
Yair Netanyahu is believed to have a great deal of influence on his father, and in April reportedly played a central role in pushing for the controversial appointment of a media spokesman who had called President Barack Obama anti-Semitic.
The mosque bill was proposed by Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev, who responded to the news item on Twitter. “I don’t remember getting Yair Netanyahu to sign,” he tweeted, along with a list of the other legislators who seconded the bill.
The prime minister posted his own response on Facebook after Channel 10 refused to air it, saying it was simply an attack on its reporter and did not address the content of the report.
“Channel 10 can no longer pretend that it is an objective media [channel] and not a propaganda machine. The daily drip of poison against the prime minister and his family is intended to brainwash the public in the most obvious way,” Netanyahu wrote on Facebook. “Broadcasting two items vilifying the prime minister’s son in a single show speaks for itself. There is hardly a citizen in Israel who takes your propaganda transmissions seriously and perhaps that explains your ratings.”
The response was referring as well to a piece aired by Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker earlier in the week which claimed Yair Netanyahu had been given use of an apartment owned by Australian billionaire James Packer. The report claimed that a lawyer for Packer, who is close to the elder Netanyahu, had unsuccessfully leaned on Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to grant the businessman permanent resident status, a rare status for non-Jews.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s response to that report attacked reporter Raviv Drucker’s character and accused him of being an agent of the New Israel Fund. Drucker has said he is weighing suing Netanyahu for damages over the response.
When asked by The Times of Israel for a response to Channel 10’s decision not to air the response, the Prime Minister’s Office said it had no further statement.
Channel 10 said it did not air Netanyahu’s response to the report on the muezzin legislation because the reaction did not address the issues raised in the news item.
“We deliberated about how to deal with the response that was sent to us from the prime minister,” news anchor Tamar Ish-Shalom said Wednesday. “In the past, we have been careful to share every response with you, even when those responses did not deal with the issues that we raised. We believe that Mr. Netanyahu has the full right to respond but we cannot continue to allow him to abuse Channel 10 journalists.
“Unfortunately we have not yet received any response that dealt at all with the report from our journalist Akiva Novick [about the muezzin bill]. Of course we would be happy to quote [any response] in its entirety when we receive it.”
There is an ongoing feud between Netanyahu and the media after a damning investigative report about his wife Sara Netanyahu was aired on Channel 2’s “Uvda” program last week. The prime minister’s response to the program was a three-page, 680-word tirade read out by Dayan in full, in a 6-minute segment toward the end of the program.
In it, the Prime Minister’s Office assailed Dayan’s character, calling her “a left-wing extremist” who “does not have an iota of professional integrity” and who is “one of the ring-leaders of the orchestrated attacks on…Netanyahu, which seek to bring down the right-wing government.”
Journalists, politicians and the media were highly critical of Netanyahu’s response. The Israel Press Council on Friday expressed concern over recent attacks on the media.
“We saw the exposé by Ilana Dayan, where instead of receiving a denial or reaction to the issue, what we got from the prime minister was a brutal response endangering Dayan’s life,” said Dalia Dorner, a former Supreme Court justice who heads the council.