Netanyahu Ratchets Up Attack on Production Company, Journalist Reporting His Corruption Probes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ratcheted up his attack on Israeli production company Keshet Media Group on Saturday evening, taking to Facebook to claim in a live video streamed on his official handle that Keshet was "committing a terror attack against democracy."

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This attack came a day after he called for a boycott of the Israeli producers of the HBO series "Our Boys," which he claimed was anti-Semitic. The series depicts the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers at the hands of Hamas and the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was burned to death by three Jews.

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On Saturday, Netanyahu attacked both Keshet and Channel 12 News. Responding to reports by journalist Guy Peleg about Case 4000, in which the premier is accused of bribing a media mogul for favorable coverage on his news website, Netanyahu said: "Guy Peleg is just a puppet, he's a messenger. Pulling the strings are two Avis – Avi Weiss and Avi Nir."

The prime minister was referring to the CEO of Channel 12 News and CEO of Keshet Media Group, respectively.

"These two people, what they say goes," Netanyahu continued. He also attacked Drorit Wertheim, chairwoman of Keshet's board of directors –  "she's worth just two billion" – and Yitzhak Tshuva, a major shareholder in Channel 12 News –  "he's worth just four billion. they sit in the back and let the kids play in front of them…they don't let anyone compete with them."

Netanyahu went on to say: "Why do you think they're recruiting against me? It's because they think I'm trying to break this monopoly of theirs. Avi and Avi and Drorit and Yitzhak, the secret four," referencing the 20th century "Famous Five" Enid Blyton novels.

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"They replaced [Yedioth Ahronoth publisher] Noni Mozes. It was once forbidden to say the name Noni Mozes, like Voldemort. Today, it's forbidden to say Avi Weiss and Avi Nir, and forbidden to say Yitzhak Tshuva and Drorit Wertheim."

Channel 12 staff, Netanyahu added, "were recruited to do harm to Israeli democracy. They do these soft interviews with [Kahol Lavan's Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid], night after night, and give them softball questions" while the right gets summary justice, lies, distortions and a heavy hand, Netanyahu said.

Regarding the fact that Peleg was recently appointed a bodyguard due to threats he received over the phone, Netanyahu said: "Stop playing with us, nobody buys it. The fake security you're giving your journalist, you must have gotten it from Benny Gantz's fake bodyguard."

In his Friday lashout, the prime minister urged his supporters not to watch "Our Boys." He wrote in a Facebook post that the series "is broadcast to the world and puts out a bad name and lies about the State of Israel."

Targeting Channel 12, he added: "I'm not surprised that Channel 12 slanders Israel, as I am used to them slandering me on a daily basis."

Earlier Friday, Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel rejected a petition by the Likud against publishing materials from the investigations into Netanyahu before the September 17 election. This came after Peleg quoted testimony from those involved in Case 4000 over the past few days, which indicates that Netanyahu allegedly asked the Communications Ministry to act on behalf of his friend, Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovich.  

Netanyahu also claimed Saturday that the Keshet production company is a monopoly, and said that he wishes to increase the competition in the Israeli television market – despite the fact that he sought to hurt Keshet's company, Channel 10 News and the Public Broadcasting Corporate, which he tried to shutter. Furthermore, the draft indictment in Case 1000 alleges that Netanyahu was involved in efforts to merge competing production companies Keshet and Reshet, a move that would have limited competition in the sector.

Netanyahu's involvement in this affair, which is suspected to have been initiated in an attempt to benefit his associate Arnon Milchan, was first reported by Haaretz in 2017.