Israel considers closing Al Jazeera bureau in Jerusalem

As diplomatic pressure increases on Qatar for its ties to Iran and alleged terror support, Israel ponders following Saudi Arabia and Jordan by shutting the Qatari news network’s Jerusalem office.

In the midst of the diplomatic spat between Qatar and its Sunni neighbors in the region, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting with relevant government offices to weigh shutting Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem Bureau. This follows similar moves by Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Al Jazeera has long been accused of acting as the mouthpiece for the Qatari regime and showing bias against Israel. On Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman attacked the news network, stating that, “It’s truly an instrument of incitement and propaganda in the disgraceful style of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.”

Closing Al Jazeera in Israel may prove problematic for the Israeli government and certainly more difficult than in either Saudi Arabia or Jordan.

In an interview with Maariv, Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem Bureau chief, Walid al-Omari, said, “If they try to discontinue our activity in Israel and close our office here, we will petition the High Court of Justice.” There are press freedom issues and most of Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem employees are Israeli citizens, whose right to work is protected by law. Should it act, the Israeli government may find itself in a protracted legal battle it may not win.

“What’s wrong with Al Jazeera?” al Omari asked. “We are duly registered, law-abiding workers, who pay taxes and behave according to journalistic ethics. From day one we have been registered. Everything is transparent, everything is coherent.”

Al Jazeera’s real problem might be its Qatari paymaster’s increasing regional isolation and the contention that the network aids in supporting terror groups like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. As the squeeze tightens on Qatar, Al Jazeera might find itself under increasing pressure.

By Gary Cohen/World Israel News