In an unprecedented move which may reflect the degree of pressure Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been under recently, his Facebook page this morning launched a furious attack against Arnon (Noni) Mozes, publisher of Yediot Aharonot and Ynet.
Both publications have been strongly identified with political forces in Israel that are determined to unseat Netanyahu. Yedioth has also been the choice target of Netanyahu’s biggest supporter, Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, when he established the daily giveaway, Israel Hayom (Israel Today), which has been competing successfully with the Moses publication.
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“It’s time to put things on the table, ” writes Netanyahu this morning. “The main force behind the wave of slander against me and my wife is Noni Mozes, publisher of the newspaper ‘Yediot Ahronot’ and the website Ynet. Nothing is too low for him in his effort to bring down the Likud government under my leadership, to close down the daily newspaper Israel Hayom and regain the ruthless dominion of Yediot Aharonot over the printed press.”
The fact is that the Nozes publishing empire has taken a hit from Adelson’s newspaper venture, to the point where it utilized Labor MK Eitan Cabel and others to spearhead a legislative effort to make it illegal for major daily newspapers to be handed out for free. It was the kind of law that was obviously tailor-made to damage one, specific target—Israel Hayom—and yet it gained traction on both sides of the aisle in the Knesset, and there was speculation that killing it was the main reason behind Netanyahu’s unexpected decision to disperse parliament and go to new elections.
So there’s a lot of bad blood there, between Bibi and Noni. As the PM’s Facebook slam states:
“In recent weeks, the attacks against me are no longer limited to once a day, in the morning, when the newspaper Yediot Aharonot is being distributed. They are published almost every hour, and sometimes every half hour, on the Ynet website. These two outlets initiate and schedule ridiculous, false and biased smears against me and my wife, as part of a media campaign to replace the Likud government with a left-wing government and to reinstate Noni Mozes as ruler of the media.
“This vast and extensive smear campaign is using, among other means, former employees who are trying to improperly gain state funds, and all sorts of other interested parties.”
Of course, it’s a bit of frying pan calling the kettle black at work here, seeing as Netanyahu is being supported by at least as much business wealth as Mozes—a point which will, no doubt be spelled out by the entire Israeli media, save for Adelson’s paper, none of whom are particularly enamoured with the PM these days.
Which leads one to consider that this attack was not targeting the media or Noni Mozes, but rather Netanyahu’s hard core Likud supporters, who have been left wondering whether their champion’s latest move—the speech before a joint session of the U.S. Congress—was as clever as it seemed a few weeks ago.
Incidentally, not to bury the lead or anything, but the Washington Post has just revealed that the Obama Administration had been informed about the Bibi visit ahead of time. They didn’t like it, but they lied when they said they had been sideswiped. Not true. Apparently, AP has already published a retraction—but few have noticed.
Regardless, polls this week are showing that far more Israelis, regardless of their political affiliation, are against the Bibi speech. This kind of common sentiment could go a long way to erode the PM’s command on the vote, which, for the record, he is still enjoying. In fact, in the latest polls Likud has shot past Labor by a measure of 27 to 23 seats.
Netanyahu concedes magnanimously: “I do not claim that Noni Mozes is the source of all the criticism against me. There are many media outlets who do their jobs well. They criticize government in a meaningful, albeit piercing manner.”
Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, on behalf of the sincere media people. But Bibi, like the babysitter he’s been portraying in recent Likud ads, has different message for those bad, insincere media folks:
“But here we’re talking about something else entirely: a major media tycoon who is running a well-organized smear campaign against the incumbent prime minister, in order to replace Israel’s government the sake of his business interest and personal gain.”
OK, that’s really dragging the frying pan and kettle way too far. You can’t really be upheld by one tycoon, while crying the blues because another tycoon is out to get you. Is self righteousness a becoming pose for Netanyahu in this day and age? Could be—he has campaign consultants who probably know. But it has to make many Israelis feel just a tad uneasy.
“I bring this to the public’s attention in order to be clear: the Likud and I will not be deterred by these slurs. We will continue to fight against all malicious slanders, for the sake of the security and prosperity of the State of Israel. No one will stop us.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg. I will expand on it later.”
OK, here is the proper time to advise the combative PM that using Titanic-related metaphors is a bad omen. I’m just saying.