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Spin Control: Netanyahu Hits at Media

Israeli leader now turns on his 'tormentors' in an effort to shift the blame

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The prime minister is exonerated, the predictions of his demise turn out to have been premature, and the big, bad news media have a lot of answering to do for their role in the whole ordeal.

That was the outcome that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu predicted from the start of the scandal that was exposed three months ago by a reporter at Israel Television's Channel 1.

The actual finale does not leave the premier looking nearly so absolved of guilt nor so secure in his seat of power, but it does leave him room to spin the scandal by blaming the media he has long accused of being liberal in general and biased against him in particular.

Despite last week's recommendation by national police investigators to indict Mr. Netanyahu on charges of fraud and breach of trust, the premier will almost definitely not be prosecuted. The attorney general ruled that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against Netanyahu for an influence-peddling scheme that allegedly would have allowed a key government player to extricate himself from unrelated fraud charges in return for a crucial vote in Netanyahu's favor.

Netanyahu has maintained his innocence from the start. And as the investigation wore on, he expressed increasing confidence that police had not turned up any evidence to indict him.

The attorney-general also said Channel 1 ought to be commended for its work because there was a factual basis to its reports. But that has not kept Netanyahu from trying to shift the center of attention and blame the messenger.

In a speech after Sunday's announcement that he would not be prosecuted, Netanyahu admitted mistakes, but slammed the media and his political rivals for blowing those missteps out of proportion.

"Some media people identified with the left were happy to adopt every malicious accusation, as imaginary as it may be or as groundless, as long as I was at its center," Netanyahu said.

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