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28 Jan, 2022 13:05

Netanyahu threatened to set ‘army of bots’ on me, Israeli PM says

Naftali Bennett claims the former prime minister warned about his ‘propaganda machine’ as Bennett tried to oust him
Netanyahu threatened to set ‘army of bots’ on me, Israeli PM says

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told Haaretz that his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, threatened to unleash his propaganda “machine” against him. The alleged threat came when it became clear that Bennett would be forming a rival coalition government that would push the longtime leader from power.

The incident apparently occurred during a meeting last May, a month before the current government came to power. Describing the period as the “mother of all battles,” Bennett told the newspaper that Netanyahu issued the threats when he “realized that I didn’t intend to let him drag Israel into a fifth election.”

“If I understand correctly what you’re going to do, you should know that I am going to turn my whole machine on you, the army,” Bennett quoted Netanyahu as warning him. He added that the former PM “demonstrated” how he would “send the drones” at him by making an aircraft bomb dive motion with his arm.

He was talking about his army of bots, the [online] groups, his people on the radio, television and the social media networks.

The PM elaborated during interviews with other Israeli media outlets, telling news site Walla that Netanyahu had “built one of the most effective propaganda machines ever” that “invents stories at an insane pace.” He offered as an example how he apparently “found out my mom is Catholic” through one such story.

“There is a machine here that produces poison and hatred… with a radio station and television station, thousands of bots and groups that invent completely fake [news] and push it on social media,” Bennett told news outlet Ynet, adding that “everything is in the service of one man.”

His contentious meeting with Netanyahu was the determining factor for Bennett’s decision to defect to the rival camp, Haaretz reported. Bennett told the paper that it made him “[realize] that everything was resting on my shoulders” and spoke about not knowing “how the country would come out” of the cycle of elections and failed governments “if I didn’t take the decision.”

Bennett also accused Netanyahu of “spreading chaos, hysteria and a lack of faith” in the government, The Times of Israel reported, adding that the PM also claimed to have saved the nation from “falling into the abyss.”

In response to the revelations, Netanyahu’s Likud party has released a statement accusing Bennett of “panicking” after having “failed on the coronavirus, economy and security.”