A text vilifying Israel's media from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office has been read on air by a television journalist. Ilana Dayan had just fronted a probe into the workings of the premier's administration.
Dayan used six minutes of airtime on Tuesday to read Netanyahu's response to her report, while standing in front of his office, including his accusations that she was a part of Israel's "extreme left" and had recycled "warped gossip and vicious lies."
Netanyahu's party Likud did not comment Tuesday on the slanging match.
Dayan's initial investigative report - broadcast by privately owned Channel 2 television on Monday night - included claims that Netanyahu's wife Sara (pictured above with Netanyahu) had vetted appointments and that a candidate for the spy agency Mossad was denied a job.
The would-be Mossad head had reportedly refused to guarantee his personal loyalty to Netanyahu, saying instead his loyalty lay with the Israeli nation.
Dayan's report also included an allegation that an intended Netanyahu trip to Germany had to be cancelled at the request of his wife.
The lengthy written response from Netanyahu's office accused Dayan of being part of an "orchestrated attack" intended to "topple" his government while questioning her professional integrity.
The Netanyahu-Dayan clash coincided with efforts to shut down Israel's existing state broadcaster IBA and government wavering over a successor network, the new Public Broadcasting Corporation (PBC).
Already, 500 staff have been hired from the new channel, which is due to go on air next January. Almost half of those recruits were previously at the IBA.
The reform, ostensibly to revitalize public broadcasting, was launched in 2014. Netanyahu initially approved it.
But in recent months he has turned against the project, without publicly explaining why, while also quarrelling with his finance minister Moshe Kahlon, who stressed that substantial taxpayer funds had already been invested in the reform.
Kahlon's centrist party Kulanu, holds 10 seats in Netanyahu's 67-seat coalition, which has a thin majority in Israel's 120-seat parliament.
Generations of Israelis have grown up with the IBA, including its leading television channel and eight radio stations in multiple languages.
New PBC 'hijacked'
Last month, the chairman of Netanyahu's coalition, David Bitan, said the premier had turned against the successor network because "the corporation has been hijacked by people whose agenda is leftist and anti-government."
"What we see is an across the board attempt by Mr Netanyahu and his government to control all forms of media," said Elad Man, legal adviser of the media watchdog organization the Seventh Eye.
"I don't think we should even try to imagine what will happen to Israel as a society and a democracy if those attempts succeed," said Man.
Press interviews rare
Reuters observed Tuesday that Netanyahu had largely avoided on the record interviews with the Israeli press - amid a feud with the leading newspaper group Yedioth Ahronoth - and opted instead for social media.
Israeli opposition figures on Tuesday, including Labor party leader, Ehud Barak, criticized Netanyahu sharply over his response to Dayan.
ipj/se (AFP, AP, Reuters)