They have come in the form of personal and regular Facebook posts denouncing him, as well as telephone calls to Drucker’s colleagues.
This week, Drucker – who works for Channel 10 television – was in Netanyahu’s sights again as the prime minister used Facebook to accuse Drucker of waging a personal war against him and his family in attempt at “brainwashing” Israel’s voters.
The reason for the animus at least is clear. Amid all the allegations against Netanyahu during his present period in office, Drucker’s reports have landed the most effective and repeated blows.
The journalist has been behind a run of high-profile stories in the last few weeks that have embarrassed Netanyahu, his family and friends – and dominated Israel’s headlines.
He has raised concerns over the role of Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and relative, David Shimron, in a deal to buy German submarines. (Netanyahu and Shimron insist they never spoke about the deal so there could be no conflict of interest.)
In recent days, Drucker has raised questions over the relationship between Netanyahu’s son, Yair, and the billionaire Australian businessman James Packer. Drucker’s report alleged Packer paid for lavish holidays and flights, and gave other gifts to Netanyahu’s family.
The prime minister’s office insisted that Netanyahu’s son is a private citizen who does not need to answer to journalists and has the right to be hosted by friends.
But the latest stories have prompted Netanyahu to lash out again in public, singling out Drucker in a post on Wednesday evening.
“It is amusing to see these same journalists explain their smear campaign against me and my family with the explanation that the ‘media needs to criticise the government’,” Netanyahu wrote on Facebook.
“By means of daily brainwashing of the public and character assassination against me and my family they hope to distract the public’s attention away from the core issues of the political debate in Israel.
“That isn’t going to do them any good. The hot air escapes from every balloon that is inflated by Noni Mozes [the owner of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper], Raviv Drucker, and company.”
A Facebook attack just a few days earlier saw Netanyahu launch a lengthy attack on Drucker, mocking him for joining a well-known TV gossip show.
“It’s sad to see,” Netanyahu wrote, “how Drucker always manages to reach new lows of malicious and shameful journalism, even by the standards of the already biased Israeli media.”
Netanyahu’s complaints have become familiar to Israeli media since his 2015 re-election. A piece earlier this month in the newspaper Haaretz detailed Netanyahu’s habit of calling journalists, their publishers and television executives, often in the most aggrieved tone, to complain about coverage and the treatment of his wife, Sara – a habit confirmed to the Guardian by other Israeli journalists.
Drucker is not the only one who has been targeted by Netanyahu in recent weeks.
Ilana Dayan – like Drucker one of the country’s most prominent broadcast reporters – read out on-air a 680-word response from Netanyahu’s office to an investigative piece.
The response accused her of being an “extreme leftist” responsible for “political propaganda against the prime minister and his wife, made up entirely of recycled slanted gossip and vicious lies.”
Drucker seemed to shrug off the attacks. “I’m used to it,” he told the Guardian in a cafe below his Tel Aviv studio a few hours before the latest Facebook rant from Netanyahu.
“I believe he’s now published five or six posts against me, as far as I know. You know, I don’t go looking for them, but sometimes I bump up against them.”
He mentions, the calls – sometimes to multiple people, one after the other. “He’s called everyone. Shareholders [in the television company], managers editors, even correspondents. I can’t believe how much time he spends on this. He texts people as well.”
Drucker says the change came after the 2015 election, when Netanyahu won a far larger share of seats than expected.
He said: “After that election, when he won against all odds, from his perspective it was: ‘Shut the fuck up. You, the outside world, told me [I] needed to go along [with what they thought] and yet I won by a landslide.’”
The irony is not lost on Drucker that he once enjoyed a good relationship with Netanyahu, and his political rivals accused him of being too close to him. “It got to point that when I published stories about [former prime ministers] Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert they would say I’m the was the most friendly reporter to Netanyahu,” Drucker said.
Netanyahu’s critics say his claim that the media is “against him” is somewhat disingenuous in a country where the biggest circulation newspaper – the freesheet Israel Hayom – is owned by Netanyahu’s biggest supporter, the US casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
But in a country whose press freedom rating has been downgraded by the US NGO Freedom House to only “partly free”, Netanyahu’s interventions – on top of his recent stated desire to shut down the country’s public broadcasting authority – has led to mounting concern in the media.
Drucker, however, believes some claims that Netanyahu wants media controls echoing those of Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Turkey’s Recep Tayipp Erdoğan are exaggerated.
“Yes, democracy is fragile here,” he said. “But I don’t think were are on the slippery slope towards Erdoğan and Putin. In Russia and Turkey people like me were already behind bars years ago. But it is not like Britain or the US [in terms of press freedom].
“Sure Netanyahu wants an obedient media. And he is smart. You can’t take that away from him. So long as he is prime minister of Israel he knows he won’t get the totally obedient media he wants. He pressures the media so that people will think before broadcasting anything.”
Netanyahu’s latest attack suggests that his interventions are calculated as much as angry, and he seeks, like Donald Trump in the US, to bypass traditional outlets to speak to his supporters via social media.
“The media is the new Arabs,” Israeli journalist Udi Segal told Haaretz. “The bloody steak that Netanyahu serves his electorate. He’s in a win-win situation because he manages to have a chilling effect on the media outlets while portraying himself as a victim.”
His actions have not gone without comment by Netanyahu’s political rivals. Responding to the attack on Dayan, Tzipi Livni, the joint leader of the Zionist Union party, said: “We must not remain silent to this targeting, incitement and persecution – but to act together to replace Netanyahu and save Israeli democracy.”
Barak, the former prime minister, was more succinct, tweeting that Netanyahu had “gone off the rails”.
Netanyahu, however, appears to have an answer ready for his critics, writing: “It is also amusing to hear the media’s cries of dismay and its double standards when I respond to their smears. They hold freedom of speech to be a preeminent value – as long as it is reserved only for them.”
Author: Peter Beaumont