If not curtailed, Netanyahu's attacks on the media will become his legacy.

We urge Netanyahu to stop these attacks immediately.

Raviv Drucker, political commentator for Israel's Channel 10 television walks in the Knesset, Israel's parliament in Jerusalem on May 25, 2015 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Raviv Drucker, political commentator for Israel's Channel 10 television walks in the Knesset, Israel's parliament in Jerusalem on May 25, 2015
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
‘Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
This is what Thomas Jefferson wrote Edward Carrington, whom he had sent as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1786 to 1788.
It is a lesson Benjamin Netanyahu could do well to learn.
On Wednesday night, Israel’s prime minister said that Channel 13 journalist Raviv Drucker should be arrested and jailed for a segment on his popular show Hamakor during which he aired recordings that seem to implicate Netanyahu in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla affair. Netanyahu released a video on his Facebook page, criticizing Drucker for carrying out a “criminal court martial” and “disrupting legal proceedings and threatening state witnesses to change the minds of the judges.”
This was not the first time that Netanyahu had attacked Drucker but it was the first time that a leader in Israel – still a democracy – called to jail a journalist for an unfavorable report. Netanyahu claimed that Channel 13 did not air his response to the report  – which discusses an alleged bribery deal struck by Netanyahu with Bezeq and Walla! owner Shaul Elovitch. Channel 13 had originally turned to the Likud Party for the response, but deemed it irrelevant after all it did was attack Drucker.
Attacks on journalists are not a new phenomenon in Netanyahu’s Israel. Last January, ahead of the April 2019 election, the Likud Party put up posters in different parts of the country with the faces of four well-known journalists – Amnon Abramovich and Guy Peleg from N12, Drucker, and Ben Caspit of Maariv – with the words “They will not decide. You will decide.”
The anti-media campaign came in response to a series of reports by these journalists about the investigations against Netanyahu.
We urge Netanyahu to stop these attacks immediately. Firstly, because they are dangerous.
Israelis have seen in the past what happens when politicians incite or allow their followers to incite without consequence. Netanyahu would do well, for example, to recall his participation in demonstrations where then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was depicted as a Nazi. Netanyahu of course never promoted violence, but when Rabin was assassinated he should have learned a lesson about the power of words.
In addition to the physical risk, these attacks also represent a misunderstanding of how a democracy works. The job of a journalist is to investigate, report and ensure that politicians are transparent and held accountable. After all, it was Netanyahu who accused the press – before he was reelected prime minister in 2009 – of not doing enough to uncover corruption during the term of his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, who ended up being sent to jail.
Drucker, for example, is one of Israel’s leading journalists, mostly because he doesn’t hold back from investigating anyone – whether on the Left, on the Right or in the Center.
Sadly, we have little expectation that Netanyahu will change. Yes, he claimed on Thursday that the text he posted against Drucker had been wrongly worded by his spokesperson, but he also has a history of using divisive language to bolster his power. He did this during the three consecutive election campaigns when he consistently attacked Arab-Israelis giving the feeling that he is prime minister only for seven million of Israel’s nine million citizens.
Then, his attacks against Arabs were part of an attempt to show Israelis why they needed him to remain their prime minister. The Arabs were the threat – no matter their Israeli citizenship – just like the media, including journalists like Drucker, are the enemies today.
Having an “enemy” is important for Netanyahu to help solidify his rule. This way he presents the people with a threat and then explains why he is needed and has to remain in power.
The problem is that these attacks – against the media, the courts and the police – will all continue as long as Netanyahu remains on trial and feels like his rule is in danger. He should stop because if he doesn’t, this will become his legacy.
He won’t be remembered for annexation or fighting Iran. Instead, he will be remembered for the damage he has caused to the fabric of Israel’s democratic institutions.