Papers playing politics
Hebrew media review

Papers playing politics

As election day approaches, journalistic neutrality appears to be taking a back seat to partisan punditry

Labor Party campaign stickers saying "Bibi is good for the rich, Shelly is good for me" posted on top of a campaign poster depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Labor Party campaign stickers saying "Bibi is good for the rich, Shelly is good for me" posted on top of a campaign poster depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A week from today, Israelis will go cast their vote in the ballots and determine the identity of the next government. Naturally, the Israeli media is covering the race closely and providing the electorate with the information and context needed to make the educated decisions on who to vote for. But that’s not all they are doing.

As election day approaches, cracks are emerging in the some of the papers’ journalistic neutrality. Though the Hebrew press has never been accused of being exceedingly objective, it seems that now more than ever, news judgement is giving way to partisan politics.

Case in point: Yedioth Ahronoth today leads the paper with the headline: “The upcoming austerity measures,” with a story spelling out the tax hikes and benefit cutbacks expected as a result of the budget deficit. The sub-headline claims that despite the prime minister’s and the finance minister’s promises, treasury officials say there is no choice but to raise taxes. And if there was any question as to which party the story serves, the subhead also includes the Labor Party’s warning that the expected budget deficit will cost each family NIS 18,000.

Israel Hayom, on the other hand, leads with a quote from Netanyahu reading: “The budget will grow, I don’t think we will need to raise taxes.” Can you guess who it’s rooting for?

A second front-page headline that certainly won’t hurt the prime minister, who is running on a message that Israel needs a strong leader to face regional security concerns, reads: “An Iranian bomb midway through 2014.” The story reports on a new study by a group of American experts that warns that Iran could reach critical nuclear weapons manufacturing capability in mid-2014 and urges the US and its allies to toughen sanctions on the regime and leave the military option firmly on the table.

Never one to be accused of political ambiguity, Haaretz leads with a headline assured to mobilize the left, reading: “Senior Likud officials: There is no doubt that Bennett will be in the government.”

The unnamed party officials say that despite the ongoing exchange of accusations and recriminations between the Likud-Beytenu and Jewish Home campaigns, there is no question that Bennett’s right-wing party is a natural partner for any future coalition led by Netanyahu.

Of the four major dailies, only Maariv retains an air of impartiality, though a critical reader might find reason to object to its top story, reporting on Netanyahu’s ministerial choices, too. According to the article, even though the elections are still a week away, in the Likud, heated discussions over which MK will get which Cabinet portfolio are already underway. If insider rumors are to be believed, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar will replace Yuval Steinitz as finance minister, leaving the education portfolio open for Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, if he chooses to enter the coalition. Other likely high-profile portfolio recipients are Moshe Ya’alon, who is posed to take over the defense ministry, Gilad Erdan, who is expected to be justice minister and Avigdor Liberman who will return as foreign minister provided his legal issues are resolved.

Putting aside the political prism, other news making front page headlines today include a report on weather damage to the Gaza smuggling tunnels in Maariv, the arrest of four border police officers charged with hazing new recruits in Israel Hayom and a deal to hire 1,500 teachers as private subcontractors in Haaretz.

Maariv reports on page 12 on a bounty of fish that arrived at the Ashdod coast due to the recent storm. According to the story, Ashdod fishermen, long used to poor catches, are returning home with buckets full of fish these days after the tempestuous weather broke cages belonging to fish farmers, and dispersing their produce on the open sea. Estimates are that between 80-100 tons of fish were lost to fish farmers.

Yedioth reports on page 18 of a teacher who was forced out of her profession due to unruly students. Yifat Keren quit her teaching position in Dimona after students hurled firecrackers at her. Keren testified to horror stories including of children walking around the schoolyard with clubs and knives, students hurling water and garbage at teachers and throwing rocks and smoke grenades on school property. For her pains, Keren was compensated with a NIS 367,000 check ensuring she won’t have to face an unruly classroom again any time soon.

Yalla vote

Anyone reading Haaretz today will be hard pressed to miss its editorial. The paper took the rare step of publishing its message — urging Arab Israelis to vote en masse — in Arabic as well as Hebrew.

“The Arab public has no better alternative than the civic struggle, which demands patience. Despair and abstention are the worst enemies of such a struggle, and they are luxuries that Israel’s citizens can’t afford. Massive Arab turnout in this election would serve all those who aspire to democracy in this country, Jews and Arabs alike,” reads the piece.

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