Yisrael Hayom Journalist: They Fired Me for Not Being ‘Pro Netanyahu’

A man passes out the free daily newspaper Yisrael Hayom to passersby on Ben Yehuda street in the center of Yerushalayim. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90, File)

YERUSHALAYIM - In an interview Thursday, veteran Israeli journalist Motti Gilat said that his termination this week after a decade on the staff of Yisrael Hayom was because he had “dared” to report news that was not favorable to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “Netanyahu’s supporters don’t want me to be in a position of influence where I can write about the misadventures of the prime minister,” Gilat said on Army Radio.

Why now? “They didn’t want a journalist who had an aggressive agenda to get to the truth, especially as the decision stage on the prime minister’s corruption cases draws closer.” The State Attorney has been investigating PM Netanyahu on several charges of corruption and influence-peddling, and is expected to reach a decision soon on whether or not to indict the prime minister. “They don’t want me writing a column against corruption, as I have been doing,” Gilat said.

Gilat was a long-time journalist at Yediot Acharonot who joined Yisrael Hayom when the free newspaper was established about a decade ago – amongst much criticism from his colleagues, who have long accused him and his new journalistic home of slavishly following the agenda of PM Netanyahu and his backer, U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who owns Yisrael Hayom. Gilat dismissed the accusations, but in the interview Thursday, he said that it appeared that a lack of support for the prime minister was behind his dismissal.

“I have been hearing for months that I was likely to be fired,” he said. “People told me don’t write against Netanyahu, don’t write in favor of replacing the Israel Broadcasting Authority with the Israel Broadcasting Corporation,” a move PM Netanyahu originally supported but then backtracked on. “They tried to persuade me to leave on good terms. They said they would give me a ‘retirement bonus,’ that we would write a joint statement” about how Gilat had decided of his own volition to move on.

That didn’t happen, and on Tuesday Gilat received notice – a week after another veteran journalist, Dan Margalit, was sent home. In a statement Wednesday, Yisrael Hayom said that Gilat was fired as part of “budget cuts.” According to Gilat, he offered to take a 50 percent cut in his salary – but was fired anyway. In a social media post last week, Margalit said that in his case, as well, the paper had cited economic concerns, but that it was clear that his firing was also Netanyahu-related, as he too was considered a lukewarm supporter of the prime minister.

Yisrael Hayom did not respond to the charges of either Gilat or Margalit. In a statement, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife Sarah last week said that they had nothing to do with Margalit’s getting fired. “Neither of us have anything to do with decisions made at the newspaper, and it has been months since either of us have even spoken with editor Boaz Bismuth.”