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Economic Minister's Stinging Response Prompts Changes to Article

Walla! portrayed Min. Bennett as 'frequent flyer' at taxpayer's expense, but he fired back - triggering some subtle changes to the report.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 12/10/2013, 1:24 PM

Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett
Economics and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett
Flash 90

The popular Walla! website changed the wording of an article that portrayed Jewish Home leader, Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, as a "frequent flyer" touring the world at taxpayers' expense, after Bennett fired back at the website on Facebook.

The Walla! piece said that while Bennett "said that the Left prefers 'cocktails in Oslo' to lowering the cost of living," he himself has been flying around the world at taxpayer expense more than any other minister.

Bennett has been abroad for 32 days in aggregate since entering office earlier this year, the left-leaning website found. Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz was in second place with 30 days abroad, and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was third with 24 days abroad.

Bennett's bureau responded to the website's criticism by noting that he takes care of nationally-pressing business on his travels abroad: his trip to the US was a marathon of interviews and meetings intended to make Israel case to Americans that the interim deal with Iran is a bad one, and his travel to the Far East opened up markets for Israeli firms.

Bennett then went on to publish his own "item" on his Facebook page, zapping Walla! for shoddy journalism and explaining exactly what he has been doing in his travels.

"Yeah. That makes sense," he wrote in response to the accusation of living it up at taxpayers' expense. "That is why I joined politics. In order to 'travel the world at your expense.' Because I suffer from a lack of money, after selling my company for 145 million dollars, and I couldn't pay for it myself."

Bennett addressed the editors at Walla! and explained: "In Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, where no Israeli minister has visited for 13 years, I met dozens of ministers of trade and economics from the world over, under the auspices of the WTO.

"We advanced trade agreements with surprising countries that I cannot yet make public. We advanced cooperation agreements in research and development vis-à-vis countries in the East, as I promised to do. My bodyguards almost collapsed from the murderous meeting schedule, and told me they do not recall such an intensive visit."

Following Bennett's riposte, the website changed the wording of the article to a more delicate formulation. The headline that said Bennett had "traveled in the world more than any other minister" was replaced with on that said he "flew" more than any other minister.

Inside the report, the words "Bennett is the minister who travels the most in the world" was changed to "Bennett is the minister who roams the world the most."

The Hebrew word for "travel," metayel, connotes a pleasure tour, whereas the word for "roams," mistovev, does not - presenting a subtle, if begrudging, change of tone.