Why the media became the enemy - again - Analysis

Netanyahu believed that the Hebrew press actively tried to bring him down in that election, and the current race is no different.

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September 2, 2019 00:11
2 minute read.
Why the media became the enemy - again - Analysis

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

On the night of the April 9 election, two Israeli politicians delivered “victory speeches” that in retrospect were laughable.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz declared victory based on the results of an inaccurate exit poll taken for Channel 12 by pollster Mina Tzemach, whose results were more optimistic for Gantz than two other exit polls aired on other channels at the same time. Within two hours, it was absolutely clear that the victory speech was a mistake.

Tzemach has since retired. Gantz is still with us.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared victory because he had good reason to believe that he would be given the mandate by President Reuven Rivlin to form a government, and that the 60 seats won by right-wing parties would all enter his coalition.

It only became clear that Netanyahu’s victory speech was a mistake more than six weeks later, when Liberman refused to enter the coalition and Netanyahu failed to form a government.

But while Gantz’s speech was proven completely inaccurate in retrospect, Netanyahu’s was not, because Gantz declared victory over Netanyahu, while Netanyahu did not mention Gantz. Earning applause from hundreds of Likud activists who crowded the room, Netanyahu declared victory over... the media.

Netanyahu believed that the Hebrew press actively tried to bring him down in that election – and the current race is no different.

Over the last few days, Netanyahu has intensified his attacks on the press, especially Channel 12. He has called for boycotts, filed unsuccessful complaints with the Central Elections Committee, and given out awards for “fake news.” Following threats from Netanyahu supporters, Channel 12 legal correspondent Guy Peleg now walks with a security guard.

So has Netanyahu intensified his attacks because the media opposes him more intensely? Not really. While damaging leaks from Netanyahu’s probes are being revealed on a nightly basis, media outlets and particular journalists considered to be anti-Netanyahu have remained relatively consistent.

A more logical explanation is that the election is coming soon, so it is time for Netanyahu to take out the ammunition that has proven successful in the past. Netanyahu knows how to wake up his political base by uniting them against a common enemy. He did it election after election, becoming a model for US President Donald Trump and other top politicians around the world.

Gantz inspires some antagonism among Likud voters, but his fellow Blue and White candidate for prime minister, Yair Lapid, inspires much more, which is why Netanyahu and other top Likud candidates always articulate their opponent in the race as “Lapid and Gantz.”

But for the last two and a half weeks, Netanyahu has needed a stronger rival to demonize, to rile up the masses.

The Israel Democracy Institute’s annual comprehensive Democracy Index poll proves year after year that the media is among the least-trusted institutions in the country, especially by right-wing voters.

That is why attacks on the media will likely escalate between now and September 17. Netanyahu will need to take advantage of such an obvious tool if he hopes to deliver a victory speech that night that will not be laughable.


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