Netanyahu fires back at Bennett

Netanyahu: Those who talk about freedom of the press tried to shut down the Israel Hayom newspaper.

Nitsan Keidar,

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Alex Kolomoisky/POOL

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday afternoon fired back at accusations by Jewish Home chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who on Tuesday expressed concern over freedom of the press in Israel, following the announcement of the postponement of the date when the new Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation will go on air, replacing the existing public broadcaster, the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

"There is a readily available and effective public broadcaster in the State of Israel. Somehow it ran into technical problems with plans that have not been implemented until now, but it will happen,” said Netanyahu.

“With regards to those who talk about freedom of the press - it is not consistent with their efforts to shut down Israel Hayom at any price. It is not just about freedom of the press, they seem to be guided by other things,” the Prime Minister charged.

Bennett on Tuesday had written on Twitter, "In the past few hours things have been getting clearer in my mind. All the legislation meant to limit the media makes me deeply worried about the future of free speech. A free press is the basis for democracy.”

A source within the Likud responded to Bennett's comments, saying that "it's very odd that Minister Naftali Bennett, who led the legislative push to close the Israel Hayom newspaper, is suddenly so deeply concerned for the future of free speech."

The comments by Netanyahu and the Likud source refer to the free newspaper that is owned by Sheldon Adelson, a close associate of Netanyahu's.

In 2014, the Knesset approved in a preliminary vote a bill that would shut down Israel Hayom. The bill was proposed by MK Eitan Cabel and was sponsored by a group of MKs, including Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home.

Bennett promised after the first reading of the bill, however, that he would prevent it from passing.