Israel's Netanyahu accuses publisher of smear campaign

Israel's Netanyahu accuses publisher of smear campaign

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday accused the publisher of an influential newspaper of carrying out a smear campaign against him in the hopes of pushing him out of office.

Netanyahu took to Facebook to attack Noni Mozes of the Yediot Ahronot daily, claiming the publisher launched the campaign to advance his own personal business interests.

Yediot and its sister news site Ynet have taken an aggressive stand against the Israeli prime minister, exposing what they called several political and personal "scandals" ahead of the March 17 election.

Netanyahu said Mozes was trying to get even with Yediot's rival, the pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom, and reclaim his dominance in the Israeli media landscape.

The Israeli premier said Mozes was behind the "ridiculous, orchestrated defamation" against Netanyahu and his wife in an attempt to remove his Likud party from power.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," posted Netanyahu and promised more details later.

Netanyahu often accuses the media of being biased against him and treating his wife unfairly. In recent weeks, he has come under fire for the way he handled a planned speech before Congress that created a rift with the Obama administration. His wife has also been scrutinized for expense in their taxpayer-funded home and alleged abusive behavior toward staff.

Yediot columnist Nahum Barnea told Israel Radio that Netanyahu was "paranoid."

Yediot had long had the largest distribution in Israel before it was surpassed in recent years by Israel Hayom, the free daily supportive of Netanyahu's government and funded by Jewish-American billionaire Sheldon Adelson. A bill was making its way through parliament trying to curtail its influence before it was shelved when new elections were called.

Yediot on Monday published a report on a petition to Israel's Central Elections Committee against its competitor that called for banning the paper's "propaganda" on behalf of Netanyahu.

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