Tuesday morning’s Hebrew print press is a clinic in how to inject new life into stories that could easily go stale otherwise – with two scandals that, at their heart, speak to how the country’s power structure relates to those on lower rungs of the societal ladder.
The funeral of four soldiers killed in a terror attack might not seem like fertile ground for a scandal, but after all 30+ ministers and deputy ministers failed to show to a single one, a scandal quickly grew. Meanwhile, the emerging affair regarding a reported criminal investigation into recorded talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes remains such fertile ground that it can’t help sprouting new revelations with each passing day, even as the tabloids involved try to bury them deep under the soil.
As is de rigeur, both the Israel Hayom and Yedioth tabloids lead off with tearful reports from the funerals of the four soldiers killed in the attack.
“My Shirush, where are you? Who will call me now and say, hello Sabush, how are you? You are so missed. I thank God for at least giving us last Friday to have fun with you and see what a flower we have,” reads one typically heart-rending eulogy, in this case from the grandfather of cadet Shira Tzur.
But the story took a turn toward the odious Monday as it emerged that no minister had bothered to show up for any of the burials, leaving grieving families even more distraught than they already were and papers more than willing to broadcast that anger.
While it may seem like a strange thing to get riled up about when burying your daughter, Yedioth quotes Herzl Hajaj, father of slain Shir Hajaj, as saying it speaks to a larger issue.
“Our kids are dying but nobody really cares,” he’s quoted saying. “It seems we’re not important enough, not well-connected enough … The politicians don’t really see us. It’s sad that no minister came, but a lot of regular people who didn’t know Shir came and that is more heartwarming than any visit by a minister.”
In the ministers’ defense, the paper cites a decade-old policy that forbids ministers from attending military funerals to avoid the appearance of military and state mixing, though anyone who follows the news here knows that it’s pretty much ignored.
Reporters also go around to the various ministers to ask why they didn’t attend, collecting excuses like wreaths unlaid – from the fact that they didn’t get an invitation (unnamed) to not wanting to bring a media scrum into it (Avigdor Liberman) to being busy removing the terrorist’s family’s residency rights (Aryeh Deri) to having a really bad throat infection (Sofa Landver).
Haaretz devotes all of four paragraphs to the funerals and outcry together, with the broadsheet instead giving the largest chunk of its real estate (half the front page and two inside pages) to the Netanyahu-Mozes-Israel Hayom affair. Among a litany of headlines, the paper leads off with the news that police have hours’ worth of tapes between the prime minister and the publisher, and that the nascent deal was initiated by Netanyahu.
The paper also reports that Israel Hayom lost NIS 730 million ($190 million) in its first seven years, and though it doesn’t come out and call the sum an indirect political contribution to Netanyahu, reporter Uri Blau spends the lion’s share of his exclusive going over the links between Netanyahu and the paper, thus insinuating as much while tearing down the claim that the paper exists for any money-making reason.
“The data sheds new light on the economic significance of operating the well-known daily in providing favorable coverage of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and reveals the enormous amounts of money the newspaper lost in its first seven years in order to continue,” Blau writes.
In a commentary piece, legal analyst Ido Baum tries to dispel claims that while the various Netanyahu affairs looks juicy, they aren’t actually illegal, saying others have been ousted from power for less.
“A prime minister whose daily life depends on the mercies of business barons befits a banana republic. Israeli law enforcement officials warned politicians about accepting candy from the rich back in May 2000. Netanyahu seems to have forgotten about that call,” he writes.
As a day earlier, the tabloids who actually have skin in the scandal continue to cover it, though to a much lesser degree and with the slant one would expect from each.
Yedioth buries its coverage on page 10 and continues its time-tested tradition of hammering at Netanyahu. Though its headline mentions that both the prime minister and publisher will be questioned again, the bulk of the coverage deals with the trouble that Netanyahu and his cohort are facing, specifically over the gifts scandal.
“Searches conducted at the office of [Arnon] Milchan in Ramat Gan revealed receipts showing the purchase of cigars, champagne and other gifts … worth more than NIS 400,000,” the paper reports, citing Channel 10 and insinuating that those gifts were given to the Netanyahus.
Israel Hayom’s coverage, meanwhile, spins the prime minister into a less swarthy light, failing to mention the report that Netanyahu was the one who asked for the favor from Mozes and not vice versa and continuing to cite an unreliable account from little-known news site News1 claiming the tape was made by Netanyahu in an attempt to entrap Mozes and help Israel Hayom.
The tabloid also makes sure to publish stats from social media monitoring group Vigo that show a sharp uptick in talk about the case, with 55 percent of them saying they think the probe is irrelevant, and 75% of the 19% who wrote about who is guilty pointing a finger at Mozes.
Despite the headline “Most internet surfers support Netanyahu,” the piece includes a quote from Vigo head Raviv Tal that makes one wonder why what internet surfers think should be considered significant.
“The mass of news articles in the last few days left most surfers confused about the affair,” he’s quoted saying. “Most of the talk is centered around commentaries and speculation.”
Could be the slogan for some of Israel’s press.