Benjamin Netanyahu’s Call for Boycott of Israel’s Keshet Has Little Effect

A call by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to boycott Israel’s Keshet has had seemingly little effect, with the TV network continuing to dominate the ratings.

Netanyahu had lashed out at the HBO miniseries “Our Boys” on Friday, describing it as anti-Semitic and calling on Israeli TV viewers to boycott “the propaganda network Keshet,” which co-produced the show. Netanyahu wrote on Facebook that the show, about the killings of three Jewish teenagers and a Palestinian youth in 2014, “gives Israel a false bad name,” which is the same thing the network does to him “every day.”

Keshet has declined to respond publicly to the prime minister’s boycott call. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the network continued to stay atop the ratings, with its primetime Saturday newscast receiving an 18% share compared to rival network Reshet’s 10.5%. That was an increase from last Saturday night, when Keshet’s newscast received a 14.6% share. Its evening reality-TV programming was also the most watched in its time slot.

Netanyahu’s boycott call came on the heels of his longstanding battle against Keshet’s news division for airing leaks of corruption investigations into him. A request from his Likud Party to the Central Elections Committee to prevent Keshet from airing such information ahead of Israel’s Sept. 17 election was rejected Friday. Netanyahu and his party have repeatedly personally targeted Keshet’s legal reporter, Guy Peleg, who is reportedly now being protected by bodyguards.

Netanyahu accused “Our Boys,” which began airing Aug. 12, of devoting minimal attention to the terrorist murder of three Jewish teenagers in the summer of 2014 and focusing mostly on the revenge killing of a Palestinian teen by Jewish extremists. During a Saturday night Facebook live event, Netanyahu doubled down on his attack on “Our Boys,” Keshet and its news network, saying: “Thousands of you called [to complain about] this terrible propaganda show.” He accused Peleg of being “a puppet” of Keshet executives.

The network received backing from many of the country’s media outlets over the weekend. A column on the front page of the widely read daily Yediot Aharonot declared Sunday: “The free press is under attack.” On Friday evening, Yaron Dekel, an anchor on the KAN News public broadcaster, said live on TV that the network was “expressing our solidarity with our colleagues at Keshet 12. Boycotting a TV network is an improper step in our eyes.”

And despite Netanyahu’s call, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin – who is also from the prime minister’s Likud Party – is scheduled to be the opening speaker at the Keshet 12 News conference on Thursday morning. Speaking at another event Sunday morning, Rivlin decried the recent Israeli campaign rhetoric: “When passions are raised and the discourse coarsens, I implore you: Don’t believe the incitement and personal attacks,” Rivlin said. “Don’t listen to the voices that are eager to radicalize the discourse, on the right or the left.”

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