Netanyahu attacks Israeli press as 'industry of depression'

At least elections were avoided, Kahlon says

Newspaper (illustrative). (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Newspaper (illustrative).
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued attacking the local media Monday at a toast held for the Prime Minister’s Office staff in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu rebuffed charges that he has been taking action to limit freedom of the press. He said the press is critical of him, but that was part of democracy.
“The press in Israel is free and will remain free,” Netanyahu said.
“I would like to see more competition, more diversity, more pluralism. The last thing I want is the opposite of that. The press is not diverse enough, does not reflect the public’s feelings. It has become an industry of depression.”
Netanyahu lamented that the press reports on unemployment where he sees full employment, on a destroyed economy where he sees a blossoming economy, and a hesitant army where he sees a strong and tough force.
The prime minister sat next to a visibly uncomfortable Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon at an event in Beit Shemesh in which a project was unveiled that will allow thousands of young couples to purchase apartments. It was their first meeting since they reached a deal ending a feud over public broadcasting that could have resulted in elections.
“We endured a crisis over the last few weeks,” Kahlon said. “If we would have gone to elections, no one would have been here today [receiving an apartment]. The young couples would have been left praying and the handicapped waiting a year for a raise in their stipends.”
In a message to Netanyahu, Kahlon warned against initiating unnecessary elections and harming the economy.
“With elections, you never know how you will end up at the end,” he said. “The responsibility we displayed was necessary, even though I paid a political price for it. I have proven that I am willing to pay a price to help young couples, but unfortunately, not everyone thinks so.”
The Knesset will hold a special session during its spring recess Wednesday under the heading: “Netanyahu’s attempt of getting control over the media in Israel.”
The session was requested by members of the Zionist Union and Meretz factions, who acquired the 25 signatures needed to initiate a plenum discussion.
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni said the opposition shall not remain silent against what she sees as Netanyahu’s attempts to terrorize and threaten the free media.
“This is only because he wants to create his own media outlets,” she said. “Every sane voice from both the coalition and the opposition should put an end to this.”
The Histadrut labor federation officially declared a labor dispute Monday in an effort to help the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation workers who will lose their jobs. The dispute could lead to a full strike in two weeks.
The corporation is set to go on the air on April 30, pending legislation that must be passed in the Knesset and three challenges in the High Court of Justice, which were filed Monday but will only be heard on that day.
Udi Shaham contributed to this report.