Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday evening instructed the Director of the Government Press Office (GPO) not to allow Al-Jazeera's director in Israel, Walid Al-Omari, to participate at a GPO seminar scheduled for Thursday.
“At the same time, the Prime Minister instructed that legal steps be taken to deny the press passes of all Al-Jazeera journalists working in Israel and to close their offices in Israel,” the GPO said.
Netanyahu’s directive came after Arutz Sheva revealed that, while Netanyahu is working to shut down Al-Jazeera’s operations in Israel, the GPO which is subordinate to the Prime Minister’s Office, invited Al-Omari to participate in a seminar on freedom of expression.
Netanyahu recently pledged to work to remove the Qatari network from Israel due to its incitement.
The GPO subsequently announced it would revoke the license of Al-Jazeera journalist Elias Karam, after he declared that he used his work as a reporter to further the Arab “resistance” against the Jewish state.
Later, however, GPO Director Nitzan Chen reversed the decision to revoke Karam's license.
The move to shut down Al-Jazeera in Israel has been criticized by groups such as Amnesty International, which said the decision to do so “sends a chilling message that the Israeli authorities will not tolerate critical coverage.”
The move also drew criticism from the network itself, which took the opportunity to launch a scathing attack on Israeli democracy, referring to the Jewish state as “a country that claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Saudi Arabia and Jordan recently shut down the network's operation in their countries as part of a larger campaign of regional Sunni Arab states against Qatar.