Netanyahu accuses Israeli media of spreading 'fake news' on judicial reform

The prime minister lost control of his government, opposition head Yair Lapid charged.

 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during the Likud's faction meeting on Monday, March 13, 2023 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during the Likud's faction meeting on Monday, March 13, 2023
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Jerusalem Post)

The "biased" media channels are engaging in an "unprecedented attack on the government" and are intentionally spreading false information about the government's proposed judicial reforms, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alleged during a statement to the press at the beginning of the Likud's Monday afternoon's faction meeting in the Knesset.

The media was conducting "live streams, one-sided commentary, biased polls and [spreading] fake news 24 hours a day," the prime minister said.

While the media "stroked" the former government with "gloves of silk," the "left-wing media" now has everything backwards. "People refusing to volunteer for reserve duties are heroes, and people who are blocking roads and disrupting the lives of tens of thousands of Israelis including ambulances, become freedom fighters," Netanyahu said.

While his government was being accused of a coup d'etat, the real coup d'etat was that the attorney-general was making decisions instead of the government, the prime minister hinted.

"Do you want to know what a coup is? In any reformed and viable democracy, the elected government is the one responsible for the army, the police, and law and order. It is anchored in law and common sense," Netanyahu exclaimed.

Opposition leader and chairman of Yesh Atid MK Yair Lapid is seen during the Likud's faction meeting on Monday, March 13, 2023 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)Opposition leader and chairman of Yesh Atid MK Yair Lapid is seen during the Likud's faction meeting on Monday, March 13, 2023 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

"[Could] someone other than the elected government will be in charge of the fight against Iran, the fight against terrorism, maintaining law and order? Who will do this, unelected officials? Will they be responsible for security or the fight against Iran? Will they be responsible for the fate of the people and the elected government?"

Netanyahu also used his remarks to claim that while media outlets outside of Israel in recent days were reporting on the collapse of the SVB bank as their main headline, Israeli media was focusing on the judicial reform and government affairs and barely addressing the collapse.

The basis for this claim was unclear. The Jerusalem Post, for example, registered continued and consistent reporting on SVB's collapse beginning on Saturday afternoon.

The prime minister did not give other examples to back up his claim.

The Israel Press Council said in response that it "objects and warns of the consequences of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's harsh and targeted attack on the Israeli media. It is the right and duty of the media in Israel to present the facts as they are and to express a variety of opinions, including those who see the proposed judicial reform as a change in the balance of regimes in Israel."

Opposition: Real dialogue can't happen without halting legislation

The leaders of Yesh Atid, National Unity, Yisrael Beytenu and Labor met earlier on Monday.

"Unity of the people begins with real dialogue, and as long as there is no stoppage of the legislation, it is just a deception," the leaders said in a statement following the meeting.

"When a proposal is put forward by the president, we will be happy to address his proposal, and we appreciate the president's efforts to arrive at dialogue," they added.

"We will do everything in order to prevent the passing of the laws but if, god forbid, we arrive at a third reading, we will not take part and we will boycott the vote in the plenum.

"Instead of a collection of crazy laws, the correct alternative at this time is a broad and balanced constitutional agreement, [and] fortification of the separation of powers until a constitution arrives," they concluded.

Lapid comments on current control of the government

Opposition leader and Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid claimed in a speech given ahead of his party's meeting on Monday afternoon that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had lost control of his government.

Lapid cited Netanyahu's lack of control over the economy, foreign policy, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, security, and the ultra-Orthodox sector. He cited the increased need for security with continuous terror attacks, Ben-Gvir's continuous on-air interviews, and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich's inability to acquire a US visa.

"He lost control of Levin's opponent and Rothman. He doesn't back them up because he wants to, he backs them up because he has no choice. They threaten him that they will dissolve his government if he tries to stop them," Lapid said. "A real prime minister - you know what, the prime minister that Netanyahu once was - would knock on the table, stop the coup d'état, call the partners to order, and tell them, 'So far, it's over. But Netanyahu cannot."

He exclaimed, "He is too weak. His speeches are still here, his suits are still here, but he is barricaded."

National Unity chair Benny Gantz criticized Netanyahu ahead of his party's meeting as well.

"If it is possible to wait for a few months without construction in Judea and Samaria or discussions on E1 [area in West Bank near Ma'aleh Adumim], the judicial overhaul can also be stopped for a few months," Gantz said.

He called on the prime minister at the minimum to halt the legislation until after the month of Ramadan, which ends on April 20, and usually brings heightened security tension.

Gantz also expressed his support of Attorney-General Gali Baharv-Miara, who in recent days was harshly criticized by a number of ministers and coalition MKs.

Labor chairman MK Merav Michaeli argued that the judicial reform was only a means to an end.

"The attempts to negotiate with the coalition will fail. Not because, God forbid, I want them to fail, but just take a look at reality and see.

"They will fail because the real goal of the coalition is not the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is just a midpoint along the way. The real goal is to enact laws of religious coercion. Laws of discrimination and the infringement of personal freedoms. Institutionalized discrimination and harm to free, fair elections for all, and profound damage to equality," Michaeli said.

"The Supreme Court is simply the barrier, the last gate that stands in the way of a religious, messianic, racist and extremist state.

"They are trying to crush and to knock down this wall, to pass their dangerous laws and there will be no Supreme Court to stop them," Michaeli added.

The Labor leader called the current struggle "the second war of independence," and as such called on Israeli citizens to hang Israeli flags on their vehicles as an act of protest.

"It's time to bring Independence Day forward. This is the time to hang the flag of Zionist, egalitarian, democratic Israel in every house, on every balcony. Take a flag to fly on the car. Every car with a flag is another demonstration in the historic struggle for Israeli democracy. Every such flag is a branch of another demonstration. Because this is the battle for our home," she said.