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Bibi and the Law
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Bibi and the Law

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

The Israeli Prime Minister has been trying to control and manipulate the media in Israel for several years.  Bibi’s apparent paranoia rivals that which Richard Nixon displayed throughout his political career beginning with his famous “Checkers” speech and ending when he personally attacked CBS’s anchor Dan Rather only weeks before he resigned. Nixon, according to many presidential scholars, suffered from an array of psychological problems one of which was a persecution complex.

Netanyahu does not believe that the media is out to get him as did Nixon, but wants to control the media and how it covers him. As has emerged over the past several weeks, Netanyahu not only received extensive gifts for favors bestowed, but he specifically sought to curry and manipulate the press so as to avoid political defeat. The audio tapes that apparently are in the hands of the legal authorities even suggest that his efforts at control went not only to controlling the press’s coverage but also a willingness to even develop legislation which could restrict circulation or distribution of “free” papers those improving the other papers financial viability.

The irony in Netanyahu’s behavior is that it pales when compared to those watching the unceasing media and ad hominem attacks emanating from the mouth of the President-elect.   To Netanyahu’s credit, he does not appear to have produced the crude mouth which Trump has demonstrated in public since he decided to enter electoral politics.  The vile, tasteless rantings from the gutter to which Trump has resorted demonstrate a total dismissal of the legitimacy of a free press as well as a disrespect for the office of the Presidency. Even now while under attack from the press, Netanyahu has remained relatively statesman-like and within the normal parameters of traditional Israeli political discourse.

There appears to be an abundance of evidence in the hands of the Israeli Attorney General indicating that Netanyahu specifically told the editor of Yeditoh Ahronoth, Aaron Mozes, that he would silence the free paper of his competitor Sheldon Adelson, Israel Hayom. This despite the fact that Adelson has been one of Netanyahu’s biggest financial benefactors. In exchange for journalistic assurances and extensive gifts, Netanyahu would reduce Adelson as a competitor or support legislation which would eliminate free newspaper distribution; thus totally negating Adelson. Such a move, Netanyahu recognized, would help the viability of Mozes’s media empire and the paper’s future financially marketability. Mozes could sell part of his journalistic business and maintain his place as a major power broker. All of this would insure as well Mozes’s continuing editorial support for Bibi.

How this media-gate will end is not clear.  No one seems sure that what appears to be a solid case will actual stick and bring Netanyahu down. For many Israelis they have seen Bibi on the run before. Furthermore, which helps to explain at least to some extent the restraint forthcoming from many in Israel, there appears to be an unsatisfactory crew of potential replacements for Netanyahu.  For the moment, at least some of the public are even prepared to ride out the storm; although Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit may not be so inclined.

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