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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The Shalem Center, a Jerusalem-based, right-wing think tank, has demanded an apology and correction from news commentator Amnon Abramovich and Channel 2 news to be broadcast at the beginning of this coming Friday evening's Central News Broadcast.
Otherwise, the institute's attorney, Nadav Haetzni, warned of legal action including the possibility of suing for damages.
The Shalem Center's ire was aroused by two statements made by Abramovich last Friday night, in which he included the Shalem Center in an allegedly illicit financial relationship between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his ardent supporter, US billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
Abramovich, who has a regular spot on the Friday night news program, started off by saying the public should not worry about the latest reports regarding the behavior of Netanyahu's wife, Sara, but about the alleged high finance-government nexus between Netanyahu and Adelson.
"There is today in Israel a connection between high finance and government like there never has been before in the history of the country," charged Abramovich. "Sheldon Adelson, Bibi, the Shalem Center, or to be more precise, the Meshalem Center (a pun in Hebrew, meaning the center that pays) and [the free daily paper] Yisrael Hayom
[which is owned by Adelson and supports Netanyahu]. Everyone emerged from the Shalem Center which is owned by Adelson. All of them were his sons, from the scandalous appointment of [Israeli ambassador to Washington] Mike Oren, to [Likud MK and Minister-without-Portfolio Moshe] Bogie Ayalon, to [Jewish Agency Chairman] Natan Sharansky to Natan Eshel, [the prime minister's bureau chief]."
Abramovich meant that Netanyahu had appointed the four, all allegedly former Shalem Center researchers, to key government positions.
Haetzni denied any connection between Eshel and the Shalem Center.
Abramovich warned that unless something were done now to legitimize the relationship, the issue would end up on the attorney-general's desk, thus implying that the connection between Adelson, the Shalem Center and Netanyahu at the moment was criminal.
In Haetzni's letter to Abramovich and the Channel 2 News Company, he charged that the commentator's statements were a grave and deliberate defamation, "which has already hurt the center and could cause serious damage in the future, including damage to the institute's funding and reputation.
Haetzni wrote that the Shalem Center was established in 1995 and was involved in academic and educational activities. It had no connections with Adelson until 2007, when the businessman contributed money to establish a center for strategic research. Adelson's contribution was for three years and the money was deposited in a separate account and earmarked for the research center alone. It was also made available for three years, and the grant ended on December 31, 2009. Even when it was still forthcoming, the contribution amounted to only 15 of the center's entire budget, wrote Haetzni.
He added that Netanyahu has nothing to do with the Shalem Center.
In response to a query from The Jerusalem Post
, Channel 2 News' spokeswoman Anat Globus said the company had no comment to make on the allegations raised by Haetzni, including whether it would publish an apology at the start of next Friday's news broadcast.