News anchors aweigh
Hebrew media review

News anchors aweigh

The Israeli navy steams into the front pages and pundits battle over whether there's too much celebration

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

The INS Hanit enters Eilat on Saturday, March 08, 2014. (photo credit: Yuda ben Yitach/Flash90)
The INS Hanit enters Eilat on Saturday, March 08, 2014. (photo credit: Yuda ben Yitach/Flash90)

The tabloids gush over the return of the Israel Navy detachment that intercepted an alleged arms shipment aboard the “Klos-C,” brought into Eilat port on Saturday and now flying the Israeli flag and Israeli naval ensign. Israel Hayom, Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv all run the exact same photo of the ships approaching the port of Eilat with some patriotic flag-wavers standing in the foreground. Haaretz, on the other hand, avoids the jingoistic front page, and leads with the Knesset voting on raising the minimum vote threshold for political parties.

“Returned home,” and “A sea of love” are the headlines in Yedioth Ahronoth, whose adoration for the soldiers who stormed the Panamanian-flagged ship on Wednesday knows no bounds. The paper reports that thousands of Israelis massed on the shore of the Gulf of Eilat to welcome the ships in and that there was an “Independence Day atmosphere.” By the sound of the paper’s reportage, one would expect the sailors to have been out on the high seas a sight longer than a mere fortnight.

“All of Iran’s lies,” writes Israel Hayom, taking the aggressive anti-Tehran tack on its front page (its first nine pages have to do with the “Klos-C” or the IDF). Its main story’s headline reads “The battle is over the truth,” quoting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his first battery of interviews to the Israeli press in over 400 days. Most of what the prime minister has to say is a pat on the back for a job well done and a finger in the eye of Iran.

“Smuggling the missiles in a ship was a secret Iranian mission that we uncovered, caught and stopped,” Netanyahu said. “Beyond ensnaring the dangerous missiles, a message is passed to the world, a message that we are passing gradually and methodically: despite the Iranian denials and the smiles and the illusory moderation from Iran, this is the same Iran and it has not changed its murderous conduct.”

Maariv, which skipped its weekday print edition on Sunday, reports online that after the cargo of “Klos-C” cargo is unloaded, the IDF will display the arms found therein to the press and foreign dignitaries “with the aim of continuing the public relations campaign against Iran.” The report conveys the IDF’s line that after inspection of the Klos-C’s hold, her 17 crew members — who hail from Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia — are to return home.

“That’s because investigation of them found that they are not connected to the cargo and didn’t know of its contents,” Maariv reports. “Since the arrival of the ship in Eilat, Defense Ministry personnel dealt with the arrangements of returning them to their home countries.”

Haaretz’s coverage of the how-do-you-do down in Eilat comes on Page 4 and lacks the streamers and bunting of the rest of the print media. Without explanation, however, the paper includes one of the more curious tidbits of information to disembark from this story: Haaretz says that IDF medical personnel accompanied the bomb disposal experts into the Klos-C’s hold as part of the offloading process.

The paper’s Gideon Levy rails against what he calls “Iranian cement and Israeli whitewash.” In his Haaretz op-ed, he writes that “Israeli leaders will not miss heroic photo ops and their public relations people will not miss the chance to remind everyone who are the bad guys and who are the good guys” with the Klos-C’s cargo.

“No matter how successful, this is first and foremost a showcase – the movie can’t be far – intended mainly to serve PR and propaganda purposes and to blur reality and make it disappear,” he says, calling any country that celebrates military achievement “not a healthy country.”

On the other tack, Haim Shain writes sarcastically in Israel Hayom “Sorry we succeeded.” He thrashes a Yedioth Ahronoth columnist who called the operation to capture the Klos-C piratical, saying it takes “a great deal of insolence and ingratitude to call IDF soldiers pirates.”

“It’s hard to understand why there are media outlets in Israel that compete among themselves to blacken the name of the IDF and publish slander about Israel,” he says, mirroring Levy. He attacks Channel 2 pundit Amnon Abramovich for calling the celebration excessive, saying “it’s very interesting if Abramovich would give the same analysis if he knew that on the missiles appeared an address in Ramat Aviv,” Tel Aviv’s ritzy suburb.

Maariv also publishes a report based on State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki’s interview with the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds in which she says the US doesn’t see the need for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

“The American position is clear — Israel is a Jewish state,” she is quoted saying. “Despite this, we don’t see the need for both sides to recognize this stance as part of a final agreement.” She added that “the US is interested in reaching a version that’s acceptable to both sides.”

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