A report says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering shutting down the Jerusalem al-Quds bureau of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera broadcaster, as a diplomatic rift escalates between a Saudi-led bloc of countries with Qatar.
Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Tuesday that Netanyahu had met with members of the foreign ministry, ministry of military affairs, and other institutions on Monday and discussed preliminary steps for closing the Al Jazeera office in Jerusalem al-Quds.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt have already blocked several Qatari media outlets, including Al Jazeera. The four countries cut their diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing Doha of destabilizing the region with its support for terrorism, an accusation rejected by the Qatari government.
In a relevant development on Monday, Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s minister for military affairs, compared Al Jazeera to the Nazi- and Soviet-era propaganda apparatuses.
“Some [Arab countries’] interests overlap with Israeli interests, including the issue with Al Jazeera,” Liberman said. “Al-Jazeera is not media… It’s an incitement machine. It is pure propaganda, of the worst variety, in the style of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia.”
Lieberman also accused Al Jazeera of supporting Iran, saying, “I’ve been tracking Al Jazeera for many years. You’ll never see a single article against Iran.”
The potential move to close the Al Jazeera office in Jerusalem al-Quds and the unprecedented remarks by Lieberman are indicative of how the Israeli and Saudi regimes may be increasingly tilting toward one another. There have already been signs that the ties between Israel and certain Arab regimes — traditionally putative adversaries — have been covertly expanding in recent years.
Netanyahu has on several occasions talked of the development of ties between Israel and certain Arab countries. So have other Israeli officials. Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s former minister of military affairs, in February 2016 pointed to open channels between the regime and some Arab states.
Back in January 2016, Netanyahu said during an interview with CNN that Saudi Arabia now saw Tel Aviv “as an ally rather as an enemy.”