Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering shutting down the local offices of Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera following a crackdown against Qatar by Sunni countries across the region, officials said.
Saudi Arabia has been leading an effort to isolate Qatar, accusing the energy-rich Gulf state, and the Qatari-backed channel, of supporting violent Islamic groups across the Middle East.
Jordan and Saudi Arabia have closed Al-Jazeera’s local offices, while the channel and its affiliate sites have been blocked in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain.
While Israel is not formally part of that effort, the stepped-up pressure appears to have emboldened Mr Netanyahu to look into closing down the channel’s local operations as well.
Israeli officials have long accused Al-Jazeera of bias against the Jewish state, and on Monday Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused it of promoting incitement and likened its coverage to “Nazi Germany-style” propaganda.
The Yediot Ahronot daily reported on Tuesday that various government officials held a first meeting on the issue on Monday.
An Israeli official confirmed that discussions were under way but said no decisions had been made.
Mr Netanyahu’s office declined comment.
Walid Omary, Al-Jazeera’s local bureau chief, said he has not been notified of any formal action against his operation.
However, he rejected the Israeli claims of bias and accused Israel of waging an incitement campaign.
“This is not the first time they have attacked us,” he said.
“I hope they will withdraw the threat.”
Shutting the bureau would likely face significant legal obstacles and test Israel’s commitment to protecting freedom of the press.
Some key officials might also oppose the step.
While Israel complains about Al-Jazeera’s coverage, the station is also one of the few Arab media channels that interviews Israeli officials, giving Israeli leaders a rare outlet to address the Arab public.