Mud in the front, knives in the back
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Hebrew media review

Mud in the front, knives in the back

The press looks at the dirt finding its way into the open that may fell the Netanyahus, and covers back-stabbings literal and figurative

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by former chief of staff Ari Harow (left) and former parliamentary adviser Perach Lerner as he arrives at a Likud faction meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by former chief of staff Ari Harow (left) and former parliamentary adviser Perach Lerner as he arrives at a Likud faction meeting in the Israeli parliament, November 24, 2014. (Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90)

When it comes to body parts used as metaphors, the head and heart usually get all the love, but it’s the back that does the real heavy lifting. From seeking backing, i.e., support, to getting stabbed in the back, some of the most redolent terms in English, and Hebrew, involve that part of the body. Both terms are on full display in the Hebrew press Thursday morning — with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu getting some important backing amid a flurry of legal trouble and workers about to be pink-slipped at a chemical plant saying they’ve been stabbed in the back.

And hovering above it all is an actual stabbing in the back of a supermarket worker in Yavneh, with dramatic footage making it visible to all.

Haaretz leads off with the Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked ruling that Netanyahu can stay in office even if he is prosecuted — citing an interview the Jewish Home lawmaker gave to Yedioth Ahronoth’s online news site Ynet.

“It needs to be something extremely far-reaching to topple the government over; going to elections is not a small thing,” the paper quotes Shaked saying, noting that by law prime ministers only have to step down if they are convicted of a crime that carries moral turpitude.

However, the paper also points out that given the fact that the court has found that the law forces cabinet ministers to step down if they are indicted, it’s not a reach to say prime ministers should also fall under that.

Netanyahu being indicted may be some way off, but Haaretz columnist Amos Harel looks at the submarine purchase bribery scandal and concludes that even if Netanyahu isn’t a suspect, it’s getting close enough to his power structure, the national security apparatus under him and the army to create a real disaster.

“This is a crisis much larger than the media understands,” he quotes an unnamed senior defense official saying.

How close the case is getting to Netanyahu is also signaled with the news that former chief of staff-turned-state’s witness Ari Harow will cooperate on that case, news that makes even the front page of Netanyahu-friendly Israel Hayom.

Yedioth’s coverage notes that Harow, whom it says was known to police as the “Netanyahu family finance minister,” won’t have the same kind of dirt on the submarine case he’ll be able to provide on the other cases. Still, “Harow has what to contribute to us,” it quotes a person involved in the investigation saying.

Speaking of dirt, or rather night soil, columnist Sima Kadmon falls for the bait of the Yair Netanyahu distraction, after the prime minister’s son recently become a media bad boy for refusing to pick up his dog’s excrement and then flinging some of it (figuratively) at leftist groups and the sons of past prime ministers.

In a column featured on the front page (though the Harow story is not) Kadmon asks if Netanyahu Jr. realizes that by throwing mud at others he open himself up to the same attacks “unless what’s allowed for Yair Netanyahu is forbidden to everyone else.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife, Sara Netanyahu, together with their son Yair at a Hannukah event, on December 13, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, together with their son Yair at a Hannukah event, on December 13, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“It’s not clear if the younger Netanyahu realizes what a Pandora’s box he has opened,” she writes.

Both Yedioth and Haaretz cover Ariel Olmert’s scathing response to Yair Netanyahu, but the story gets zero play in Israel Hayom, showing the paper hasn’t totally abandoned his father.

The free tabloid does spill a good amount of ink, though, on the stabbing at a Yavneh supermarket a day earlier, with a front page headline “Heroism between the shelves,” highlighting the victim trying to fight off his attacker with the goods he has been stocking on shelves moments earlier.

Using screenshots from a security camera that caught the attack, the paper describes the dramatic scene.

“In the film the terrorist can be seen walking around between the aisles, until he finds a worker relatively alone. He passes him and when the worker’s back is turned, he pulls out a knife and starts to stab him and even spray him with pepper spray. For minutes, the workers tries to hit him back and fight with the attacker, until he manages to push him away, with his hands exposed, over a shelf that collapsed,” the paper reports.

Columnist Yoav Limor looks at the incongruous domestic setting of the attack (though it’s not the first to have taken place at a supermarket) and comes away channeling Hannah Arendt.

Police and medics respond to a stabbing in a supermarket in the central Israeli city of Yavneh on August 2, 2017. (United Hatzalah)
Police and medics respond to a stabbing in a supermarket in the central Israeli city of Yavneh on August 2, 2017. (United Hatzalah)

“The full video of the attack in Yavneh, which looks like it was taken from an action movie, gives one a rare sense of the banality of terror,” he writes. “Here’s the terrorist going around the store, looking for a victim. Here he’s waiting for the worker to turn his back, and stabbing him. And here the stabbing victim is fighting for his life. And here’s the moment moment the terrorist gets caught, and afterwards familiar scenes of civilians trying to attack him and others protecting him.”

Yedioth’s coverage includes two headlines that use the term “stabbed in the back” but its lead story deals with another sort of back-stabbing, the one felt by the workers of Haifa Chemicals, who are furious over being laid off thanks to an ammonia tank being forced to shut down over environmental safety concerns. The paper reports on angry protests at plants in the south of the country and in Haifa, and the headline “This is our Ninth of Av,” is only the start of the pain-stricken accounts from workers.

“Things are very tense. I was optimistic until today, and now I’m starting to be afraid. If they close the plant where will we have money to buy formula for our baby? We bought an apartment two years ago, took out a mortgage. I don’t want to think about looking for work elsewhere. We built our lives and the future of our baby when we were relying on Haifa Chemicals,” the paper quotes Lillian Almon, who works at the southern plant along with her husband Itzik Sheri.

In Israel Hayom’s op-ed page, Eran Bar-Tal notes that a “creative solution” is needed that makes the workers, owners and those worried about dying of a toxic ammonia leak happy, but politicians are too busy trying to make hay out of the issue. He takes especially harsh aim at Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich for her attempt to blame the plant’s owners and call the government into action, comparing her to Karl Marx.

“Yachimovich publishes a daily diary of what is happening in the Israeli market. From all of them a picture emerges of greedy exploiters and exploited workers. By the way, that’s exactly how Marx preached his ‘Communist Manifesto’ doctrine. According to the same approach, we, the salaried workers, are supposed to unionize via political bodies that will give us massive power to fight the power of capital. We will win when we manage to drive away all the entrepreneurs, investors and capitalists and establish a strong government for weak citizens,” he writes, making it clear he is not a fan of this approach. “Luckily, it seems the latest elections in the Zionist Union and the Histadrut [labor federation] show that the public at large is no longer inclined to be taken in by empty slogans.”

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