Two large Israeli companies have stopped advertising on a conservative news channel in the latest sign of polarization in the country over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned judicial overhaul.
Foodmaker Strauss Group and auto importer Delek Motors said they had stopped advertising on pro-Netanyahu Channel 14 after a panelist on a Sunday show advocated the release of the killer of then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Rabin had embraced an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Channel 14 - often compared with Fox News Channel in the United States - said the panelist, a lawyer, would not be asked back.
Still, Strauss in a letter to Channel 14 seen by Reuters, said it had pulled planned advertising on the channel for ethical reasons and after "various offensive statements, repeated over and over again."
It said it would resume advertising only after it was "convinced the channel meets the requirements of the ethics charter."
Advertisers ask Channel 14 to see the bigger picture
Delek Motors, which imports Ford, Mazda, BMW and Mini cars, said in a separate letter to Channel 14 that Israeli society this year had been torn apart by the controversy surrounding the judicial plan and it was important to quell the flames.
"Unfortunately, Channel 14 not only does not do so but only deepens the rift and widens the divisions," Delek Motors said, pointing to the call for the release of Rabin's killer that "was met with applause and echoed the next day by a senior presenter on the channel."
"We do not have to cooperate and finance this outrageous conduct," wrote Yogev Weiss, Delek Motors' marketing manager. "I ordered the cessation of advertising of (our) group's brands on Channel 14."
Channel 14 said in a statement it was "sorry that the owners of a public company like Strauss decided to educate the public instead of serving it.
"Strauss' attempt to drag more advertisers after them to obscure their part in leading the fight to close Channel 14 will not work," it added.
The judicial changes pursued by Netanyahu and his government have sparked an unprecedented crisis in Israel, opening deep divides in society, bruising the economy and drawing concern from Western allies.
Netanyahu's coalition says they are needed to curb a Supreme Court that it says has become too politically interventionist.