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Bibi's attacks on media are an election strategy

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stepped up his campaign against the Israeli media with ferocious and ad-hominem attacks on local news organisations.

    Meanwhile, his attempts to shut down the new public broadcasting corporation have hit a wall and do not have the necessary Knesset majority.

    While some of Mr Netanyahu's rivals accuse him of paranoia, it seems more likely that these broadsides are part of a wider strategy to win yet another election.

    Over the last few weeks, Mr Netanyahu has been putting pressure on his own party members and his coalition partners to change the public broadcasting law - created by his own government two years ago - to prevent the new corporation from opening.

    Mr Netanyahu's aides complain that many of the journalists hired by the new corporation are left-wingers and hostile to the prime minister, who has proposed keeping the current Israel Broadcasting Authority.

    He has also proposed doing away with the public TV altogether and keeping only public-funded radio. The communications ministry, which Mr Netanyahu heads, is planning to allow more private companies to receive TV broadcasting licenses.

    The main obstacle to these plans is Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who opposes changing the public broadcast law. Mr Kahlon's Kulanu party has ten MKs, without whom there will be no majority for the new legislation. Under pressure from the PM, however, Mr Kahlon has agreed to set up a joint committee to study the issue.

    Meanwhile, Mr Netanyahu has increased his attacks on his media critics. Two weeks ago, in response to a report in the left-wing Haaretz daily newspaper on his attempts to pressure the media, his office mentioned the fact that the German group DuMont Schauberg, which owns 20 per cent of Haaretz's shares, had published Nazi propaganda under the Third Reich and questioned whether this explained Haaretz's news reporting.

    Last week, Channel Two's veteran investigative news programme, Uvda, screened an exposé of the goings-on in the prime minister's office, highlighting the involvement of Sara Netanyahu in her husband's decisions. The Prime Minister's Office responded by attacking the programme's anchor, Ilana Dayan, one of the most respected journalists in Israel, accusing her of being a spokeswoman for the "extreme left".

    Mr Netanyahu has had a difficult relationship with the Israeli media for nearly quarter of a century. He feels that the press blamed him for the murder of Yitzhak Rabin and have opposed him in every election since.

    Some have accused Mr Netanyahu of displaying paranoid and dictatorial tendencies in his crusade against the media but it is more likely that he is setting the foundations of his future electoral campaign. In the 2015 elections, he used the threat of Israeli-Arabs voting "in droves" to motivate his supporters, and in 2013 it was the threat of nuclear Iran. It now seems that the bogeyman in the next Israeli elections will be the left-wing, elitist, anti-Zionist, hostile media. A tactic which, only last week, worked very well elsewhere.

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