From ‘Bibi-ton’ to ‘Bennett-on’?
Hebrew media review

From ‘Bibi-ton’ to ‘Bennett-on’?

Is Netanyahu on the outs at Israel Hayom in favor of Naftali Bennett? Jewish Home leader is certainly getting a lot of love in some of Friday’s papers

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) seen with Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on August 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) seen with Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on August 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/POOL)

A slow news week makes for a hodgepodge of lead stories in Israel’s top Hebrew language dailies Friday.

Haaretz leads off with an expose reporting on new revelations that could further entangle Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid investigations into alleged corruption regarding his acceptance of gifts from tycoons.

The paper says police may finally have found evidence to show not only that Netanyahu was taking money, but that he was doing favors in return for that money, which could blow the whole case wide open.

Unfortunately, in the paper’s telling, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has been moving at a “snail’s pace,” in pushing the investigation along.

“Caution is important, but extreme caution could infringe on the equality before the law. Suffice it to compare the moderate handling of Netanyahu’s cases to the police and prosecution’s speed and aggressiveness in handling the trumped-up case of former prime minister Ehud Olmert and the classified documents,” reporter Gidi Weitz writes at the end of his opus, referring to legal issues the jailed former PM is currently facing.

On the paper’s op-ed page, Carolina Landsman engages in some wild speculation regarding Netanyahu’s relationship with another tycoon, Sheldon Adelson, and wonders whether the recent firing of three top editorial figures at the Adelson-funded Israel Hayom means the US casino mogul wants to turn the paper from a “Bibi-ton” (as it’s known in Hebrew, a portmanteau of Netanyahu’s nickname and the Hebrew word for newspaper) into a “Someone-else-ton.”

“Is Netanyahu himself on the way out at Israel Hayom? Perhaps the three senior employees weren’t fired because they sabotaged Netanyahu. Perhaps it would be more accurate to view them as being in the same lifeboat with the prime minister, being lowered into the sea from a ship that is now sailing toward a post-Netanyahu era,” she writes.

If Landsman is right, a look at Israel Hayom provides a clue as to who that figure might be: Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett, whose face, and bill proposing a supermajority of 80 MKs for any move to divide Jerusalem, graces the tabloid’s front page.

“Bennett is leading a strategic process that will defend the capital in the case of a political deal that seeks to give up parts of Jerusalem and give them to a foreign power,” the paper reports.

Netanyahu might breathe a sigh of relief, though, that the paper also runs a column by Nadav Shragai that seemingly downplays the timing of the bill.

“Is the bill relevant now? No. Could it be relevant in the future? Yes. Are there more important things right now that can be done for Jerusalem? Of course! Firstly, to go back to building tens of thousands of apartment in Jerusalem, where building has been frozen for years, forcing masses of Jerusalemites to leave the city,” he writes.

Yedioth Ahronoth is the hodgest-podgiest paper of all, its front page a bric-a-brac of reports on school principals backing one administrator who accidentally hired a pedophile as a substitute teacher; the London tower blaze; an IDF drill in Cyprus; Hapoel Jerusalem’s basketball championship, and Netanyahu’s government finally issuing a paper to answer for several shortfalls during the 2014 Gaza War.

On that last story, the paper gives Bennett, a cabinet member, another reason to smile, reporting that Netanyahu’s document explained that most problems have already been addressed thanks to a panel set up at Bennett’s demand.

“Some of the answers provided by Netanyahu show that the one who brought about the dramatic change in how the cabinet works, no less than State Comptroller Yosef Shapiro, was Bennett — who fought for changes without being worried it might bring down the government,” the paper reports.

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