Israel’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi has made a proposal to penalise Haaretz, the country’s longest-running newspaper, for its coverage of the war on Gaza.

Haaretz reported that the minister, who represents Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, accused it of “sabotaging Israel in war time” and referred to it as an “inflammatory mouthpiece for Israel’s enemies”. The newspaper is published in English and Hebrew.

In a proposal sent to Israel’s Cabinet Secretary Yossi Fuchs, Karhi said that he has received many complaints that Haaretz has “taken an offensive line which undermines the war’s goals and disparages the military effort and its social fortitude”.

“It is possible that some of the paper’s publications even cross the criminal standard set in those far-flung sections of the penal code reserved for wartime only,” Haaretz reported, quoting Karhi’s proposal. The proposal has not been vetted by the ministry’s legal advisor.

Karhi wants to penalise Haaretz by halting its commercial dealings with the Israeli government, by pausing all state-funded advertising to the publication, cancelling its subscriptions for all government employees and blocking any outstanding payments.

Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu Ajansi quoted Karhi as saying that “stopping the purchase of services from Haaretz by government agencies will reduce the severe damage felt by Israeli citizens not only from the publications in the newspaper but also from the fact that they are forced to pay for it with tax money”.

The Israeli journalists’ union said in a statement that Karhi had been making “failed attempys” to close the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation and has now found a new target.

“His new proposal to end all government business with Haaretz is a populistic proposal devoid of any feasibility or logic, and its entire purpose is to garner likes among his political base at the expense of dedicated journalists who are working night and day right now to cover the war,” it said.

In response to Karhi’s proposal, Amos Schocken, the newspaper’s publisher, said: “If the government wants to close Haaretz, that’s the time to read Haaretz.”

Under emergency regulations allowing the government to take action against foreign media, Karhi recently blocked the Hezbollah-linked Al Mayadeen news channel. His request to close down Qatari news channel Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel was not approved, fearing a setback to Qatari-mediated hostage negotiations with Hamas.

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