It is customary for Israel’s prime minister to give an interview to major media outlets before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This past Tuesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu canceled his customary annual press conference, and instead released a YouTube video entitled “Things You Will Not Hear in the Media” enumerating his government’s achievements.
Netanyahu has long sought to avoid Israel’s mainstream media, which he views as hostile toward him, and not without justification. Yotam Zimri, a local Facebook celebrity, criticized Netanyahu for this attitude, but not before acknowledging, “I read the questions intended to be asked by Channel 2 TV. We are talking about a typical interview that looks as if the questions were written by Netanyahu’s most bitter political opponents. They were concerned about minutia, gossip … not a single question about personal safety, stone throwing in Judea and Samaria.”
The schism, however, exists not only between Netanyahu and the media. As a “Vigo” survey conducted on behalf of the Walla! news portal is proving, there is a deepening rift between the media, perceived as biased and liberal, and the Israeli public at large.
“Vigo,” which monitors Israeli social media, reveals that what normally should have been seen as disrespectful behavior on the part of Netanyahu was actually applauded on social media. The unacceptable gap between old media establishments and Israeli society was previously exposed in Netanyahu’s landslide victory in the last election, which shocked many journalist who had prophesied his demise.
According to “Vigo,” 72% of social media comments favored Netanyahu’s “Things You Will Not Hear in the Media.” Furthermore, greater than 70% of the comments on Netanyahu’s Facebook page, the third most watched page in Israel, are positive toward the prime minister.
Netanyahu’s Facebook page has some 900,000 followers, 200,000 of whom are Israelis and the rest being Americans. “Vigo” noted that since the last election, some 150,000 new followers were added to Netanyahu’s Facebook page.
“Vigo” provides only a partial picture of the widening gap between Israel’s big media outlets and the Israeli public. Since the elections, countless social media groups have come into being challenging radio, TV stations and major news portals like “ynet” for the attention of the Israeli public. So, too, have new alternative news portals like “news 0404,” which are attracting more and more people who are fed up with a media so demonstrably hostile toward Israel’s pro-Jewish and patriotic majority.