A response by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to an investigative report aired Monday night about the goings-on in his office raised ire among many media figures and politicians.
Journalist Ilana Dayan opened the new season of her investigative reporting show Uvda on Monday with a report on the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Last week, the show’s producers sent the PMO 32 detailed questions regarding the findings of the investigative report, asking for a response by Friday afternoon. On Saturday night, the Uvda producers received a 680-word-long response, which the PMO demanded be read in full at the end of the report.
Dayan obliged and spent 4 minutes and 47 seconds reading out the response, which included numerous accusations against her but did not include any answers to the questions presented by the show’s producers to the PMO.
A flurry of accusations
“It would be interesting to see if Ilana Dayan, who proclaims herself to be the champion of free speech, will deliver our response in full, without any censorship, ” the PMO’s response began.
“It is time to unmask Ilana Dayan, who has proven once again that she hasn’t got even an ounce of professional integrity. Ilana Dayan is among the leading voices in an orchestrated smear campaign which aims to overthrow the right-wing government and the establishment of a left-wing government, ” the PMO went on to say.
“Dayan doesn’t hide her intentions. Only two weeks ago she declared war against the prime minister at a conference on the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation … her show tonight is nothing but political propaganda against the prime minister and his wife, made up entirely of recycled slanted gossip and vicious lies.”
The PMO went on to attack Dayan’s professional integrity by quoting from an interview she gave to Haaretz in 2010, saying of Ehud Olmert, who was suspected of corruption at the time: “We might have lost an excellent prime minister … it’s reasonable to consider forgiving the corruption…”
“It’s not that complex, ” the PMO informed. “For Dayan, a right-wing prime minister suffers continued slander—as we once again see in the current propaganda broadcast—while a left-wing prime minister is handled with kid gloves.”
“Ilana Dayan is a radical leftist, ” the PMO determined. “She treats the Jewish settlement in Judea and Samara as ‘land theft.’ In the extremist newspaper Haaretz, she finds ‘a great source of comfort’ and of ‘sanity.'”
The response then pointed to Dayan’s ties with the New Israel Fund, noting she attended fundraisers and received a special recognition award from the “anti-Zionist fund” in 2008. The money from that award, the PMO said, was donated by Dayan “to the radical left NGO Itach – Women Lawyers for Social Justice.” That NGO, according to the PMO, “slandered IDF soldiers in its testimony to the Goldstone Commission, ” which investigated the Gaza conflict.
“The persecution of soldiers is not a foreign concept to Ilana Dayan, ” the PMO charged. “In 2004, Dayan falsely accused a combat officer, Captain R., of executing a Palestinian girl. Captain R. was cleared of all blame by the military court. The district court determined Dayan’s report ‘distorted the truth’ and the Supreme Court confirmed the report was ‘libelous.'”
The PMO then took issue with a recent interview Dayan held with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, calling it a “fawning interview.”
“Instead of confronting him with his shocking and inciting statement: ‘We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem, ‘ she chose to grovel to him over Elor Azaria, ” the PMO determined.
Pointing to Dayan’s “issue with the people of Israel, ” the PMO quoted Dayan’s statement to Abbas on the Azaria incident: “I was ashamed when I saw that video, I was shocked and disturbed … I was even more ashamed when I read the polls and saw so many Israelis support that soldier.” Netanyahu’s office also quoted Dayan’s comment to President Barack Obama that “The majority of the Israeli public elected Netanyahu for the job – that is a part of the problem.”
The PMO also took issue with the fact that, while Dayan aired one report about the damage caused by radical left wing organizations, “she was quick to apologize and defend the radical left, saying: ‘These people are doing holy work … there should have been more of an emphasis on what human rights organizations are doing for, mainly, the Palestinians in southern Mount Hebron, which is what Ezra Nawi dedicated his life to.’
“Ezra Nawi, who receives Dayan’s praise, is the one who boasted of the fact he turned Palestinians over to the Palestinian Authority—which arrested and in some cases killed them—when their ‘sin’ was selling lands to Jews.”
A second part of that report, the PMO noted, was not aired.
“The general public has long ago lost all confidence in the major media organizations that have unleashed unrestrained propaganda against the prime minister and the Likud government, ” the PMO determined. “Dayan’s show tonight proves the public is right. No wonder many refused to be interviewed by her. They know the game is rigged, and that the best case scenario is that they’ll be used as a fig leaf in a show whose goal is slander and character assassination.”
The PMO also took issue with the fact “Dayan chose to again slander Sara Netanyahu, who unprecedentedly continues working as a child psychologist in the public service despite being the prime minister’s wife. In addition she works tirelessly for Holocaust survivors, lone soldiers, battered women, children with cancer, bereaved families and victims of terror attacks. Of course none of this will get a special episode from Dayan, who sinks to the lowest levels in her efforts to hurt the prime minister by lashing out against his family.”
Concluding its response, the PMO noted that “Dayan’s show tonight perfectly demonstrates why the media market must undergo a reform. The prime minister is determined to open this market as well to competition that would add variety and plurality of opinion, alongside public broadcast that would be stately and effective. He will do so even if Ilana Dayan continues her propaganda broadcasts against him twice a week.”
Dayan herself chose not to respond to the accusations, stating at the end of her show: “What can you say about this? You don’t.”
‘Incitement against Dayan’
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) slammed the PMO’s response to Dayan’s report, saying “the incitement is the same incitement. The hatred is the same hatred. The leader is the same leader.”
His Zionist Union partner Tzipi Livni warned that “We must not remain silent to this targeting, incitement and persecution—but to act together to replace (Netanyahu) and save Israeli democracy.”
Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich, a former journalist herself, noted that “This is one of the constitutive moments in the history of journalism in Israel, a difficult time in the history of the freedom of the press—and one prime minister who lost it.”
Yesh Adit MK Ofer Shelah, meanwhile, called Netanyahu “an inciting, obsessive prime minister.”
Former prime minister Ehud Barak wrote on Twitter that Netanyahu “is completely off the rails.”
Journalist Rafi Reshef noted just how long the response was, “Out of curiosity, I checked how long it took Ilana Dayan to read the prime minister’s response as he demanded: five minutes and 47 seconds.”
Anchor Lucy Aharish harshly criticized the prime minister, saying “May the People of Israel remember this day … I hope someone in the Prime Minister’s Residence realizes that the letter that came from his office is severe, lowly, and unprecedented incitement, with the stamp of approval of the prime minister.”
Meanwhile, at Netanyahu’s Likud party, ministers and MKs chose to remain silent and asked not to be involved.
Raz Shechnik, Yuval Karni, Itamar Eichner and Amihai Attali contributed to this story.