Good night and good luck
Hebrew media review

Good night and good luck

Israel's storied Mabat newscast comes to an inglorious end, and what's on next is anybody's guess

Employees of the Channel 1's Mabat news broadcast sing Hatikvah during their final news broadcast on May 9, 2017 (Screencapture/Facebook/Channel 1)
Employees of the Channel 1's Mabat news broadcast sing Hatikvah during their final news broadcast on May 9, 2017 (Screencapture/Facebook/Channel 1)

While the shock overnight firing of FBI director James Comey fails to make the print press Wednesday morning, Israel’s papers have their own unceremonious dismissal to spill ink over.

The surprise end to Israel’s Channel 1 Mabat newscast might not have the international ramifications and cross-border skulduggery of the Comey case, but it more than makes up for that with the downright sad, ignominious and pathos-filled end to the show’s storied 49-year-run.

While a picture of the show’s staff gathered around the anchor desk signing off with Hatikvah makes the front pages of Israel Hayom and Haaretz, only Yedioth Ahronoth goes whole hog for the story, with a front page headline reading “kicked off the screen,” on top of anchor Geula Even tearing up as she announced the news on her broadcast earlier in the evening.

It’s not just the show’s end that has the papers’ attention, but rather the way it was done, with anchors and others told just a few hours before going on the air that Tuesday’s show would be their last, as the Israel Broadcasting Authority makes room for a new public broadcasting corporation meant to replace it.

Channel 1 news anchor Geula Even Saar announces the last broadcast of the nightly 'Mabat' news broadcast in an emotional farewell message on April 9, 2017. (screen capture: Facebook)
Channel 1 news anchor Geula Even Saar announces the last broadcast of the main nightly ‘Mabat’ news broadcast in an emotional farewell message during her earlier evening news show on April 9, 2017. (screen capture: Facebook)

“Despite the continuing saga surrounding the closure of the IBA, the actual closure was done immediately and surprisingly,” the paper’s Raz Shechnik writes. “The shock of the anchors and senior workers and tears that freely flowed during the broadcast told the whole story.”

Actually they didn’t, hence Shechnik also wrote a Q & A explaining that the person in charge of closing down the IBA decided the show’s workers needed a few days to devote to getting the new broadcaster ready to go on the air.

Haim Yavin, who anchored the show from 1969 to 2008 and became Israel’s most well-known TV personality, is still mad as hell over the slapdash end to the show’s 49-year run, but unlike Howard Beale of the movie “Network,” he’s not gonna do much about it beyond writing a column and wishing upon a star.

“My heart breaks over this tragedy. The feeling is quite bad. This is a loss both for the public and the media,” writes Yavin, adding that he hopes whatever takes the show’s place will not be a government mouthpiece.

To answer that, another government mouthpiece, Israel Hayom, reports that, well, nobody knows. “It won’t be clear how the new broadcaster will look or sound until 23:59 on Sunday. According to the receivership, the radio will play music nonstop, but some of the news workers said they plan on coming to work,” the paper reports.

Haaretz notes that some have a different idea of what the new broadcaster will look like, and it could involve an Indian chief and some circles.

“There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the corporation’s future news broadcasts, and corporation head Gil Amar has already warned that ‘there won’t be what to broadcast,’” the paper reports.

Two hours to prepare a final broadcast, as the makers of Mabat had, seems like a lifetime compared to the seconds that can mean life or death for someone having a medical emergency, and Israel Hayom’s lead story blows the lid off the fact that people in the crowded center of the country can get an ambulance a minute or so faster than those in the north and south. According to the report, an ambulance takes 10 minutes and 40 seconds to reach a sick person in the center and upwards of 11 and a half minutes in the north and south.

While the paper tries to play this as a center-periphery issue, a look at the list of cities shows even larger gaps between Jewish and Arab towns. In Kiryat Shemona on the northern border, for instance, it takes an ambulance only 9 minutes. In the nearby Druze village of Majdal Shams that number is more than doubled to 20 minutes 4 seconds.

But don’t you dare label Israel racist or discriminatory, or you will get called a madman, as happens to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Israel Hayom columnist Dan Margalit writes that the Turkish leader has an IDF profile of 21 — meaning somebody so mentally unstable that they could not serve even if they wanted to — and counsels that Israel should not get worked up every time he opens his mouth.

“The power he wields causes damage to other countries even if it stays within the bounds of just ‘all talk.’ This is definite damage in the area of nationalist and religious incitement — but if the world recognizes that Erdogan is someone without a verbal self-censor, it’s possible to deal with his words without the storm that comes along with it. Simply, to give him a pass with disgrace,” he writes.

In Yedioth, though, Shlomo Pyotrkovsky wonders why Israel doesn’t give Turkey a real walloping.

“It’s hard to understand why with Germany, Ukraine or New Zealand attacking is the default option, but even when the president of Turkey flings terrible lies at Israel, we wipe the spit off our face and continue on our way,” he writes.

It’s not just Berlin and Auckland Israel doesn’t get along with, but also Ramallah, and Haaretz laments this fact in a lead editorial that insists the Palestinians are a partner for peace.

“As opposed to many other leaders, [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu took [US President Donald] Trump seriously from the first moment he presented his candidacy for president. He had better continue doing so, and take seriously Trump’s strong desire to make peace between the two peoples and ‘make a deal,’” the paper writes. “The government of Israel should shake off its Pavlovian rejectionist stance and begin showing real willingness and good will.”

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