The frenemy within
Hebrew media review

The frenemy within

The feud between Barak and Ashkenazi is aired like so much soiled underwear, with the press there to describe every putrid angle

Lt. Gen. (res) Gabi Ashkenazi shaking Barak's hand with visible discomfort on his last day in uniform (Photo credit: Michael Shvadron: IDF Spokesperson's Office/ Flash 90)
Lt. Gen. (res) Gabi Ashkenazi shaking Barak's hand with visible discomfort on his last day in uniform (Photo credit: Michael Shvadron: IDF Spokesperson's Office/ Flash 90)

There’s war you fight with enemies, which Israel knows all too much about, and then there’s war you fight with your friends, which the Jewish state is also no stranger too. It’s the latter that has the Hebrew press googly-eyed Monday morning with all four major dailies going balls to the wall with coverage of the state comptroller’s investigation into dirty deeds at the top of Israel’s defense establishment.

Maariv thinks the report, which mostly found former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi and his compadres guilty of trying to wage a dirty war against Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in not so many words, should speak for itself, and does away with any graphic design in favor of a choice quote from the document in huge letters taking up much if its front page: “The web of relations between the bureaus cannot justify the behavior of the military echelon toward the elected diplomatic echelon in the collection of intelligence on Minister Barak, with the knowledge — and not partial — of the chief of General Staff.”

The rest, as Hillel the Elder would say, is commentary and every Israeli with a computer seems to have a space in one of the papers to wax verbose on the what the report doth wrought.

In Haaretz, Amos Harel recounts the sordid “filthy” details of the affair that precipitated the report and says that while author Yaakov Orr did a service in digging deeply into the matter, heads now need to roll.

“In this affair, the chief of staff’s bureau got caught up in a series of intrigues that are more suited to a suburban political party branch in Kfar Saba; it allowed a citizen with a problematic background like [Boaz] Harpaz to meddle in army appointments and concoct dirty tricks against the defense minister’s bureau. There is no reason in the world why [Erez] Weiner, the officer closest to the chief of staff, would need to be involved in discussing plans (however hypothetical) to hack into computers, steal documents and use cellphones that could not be traced.… The comptroller does not disclose any connection between Ashkenazi’s bureau and information-gathering on chief of staff candidate Yoav Galant, although Harpaz did make later allegations on that subject. Many other questions remain open and they still should be investigated. What is described in the report is sufficient to warrant a comprehensive police investigation, which could shed light on whether anyone else was secretly involved in the Harpaz document forgery.”

Yedioth Ahronoth, which like the other papers gives wide, multi-page coverage to the affair, reports that a criminal investigation into the matter will probably be a no-go since Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said the report found no new criminal deeds. The story notes that Weinstein met with the heads of the police’s investigative units and many were against a criminal probe because most of the affair centered around political intrigues and gossip.

Nahum Barnea writes in the paper that even if the lion’s share of the blame went to Ashkenazi, both sides will leave the affair with a stain on their records.

“Ashkenazi was convinced that Barak was plotting against him because he was preventing him and Netanyahu from attacking Iran: Barak abrogated the chief of staff’s authority and his standing in the general staff, he gave him good reasons to feel that he was humiliated and persecuted. To his misfortune, Ashkenazi found ways to respond blow for blow.”

Yisrael Hayom, which doesn’t want you to work too hard, conveniently runs a highlighter pen over the important bits of its 13 pages of coverage so readers don’t have to bother reading the actual stories (that’s so 20th century).

Referencing Barak’s quip that Israel is a villa in a jungle, commentator Mordechai Gilat says they should have named the document the jungle report, considering all the evil contained within its pages, including transcripts of conversations between Weiner and Harpaz. But it’s the stuff that was not released that speaks even more loudly, Gilat says.

“You need to read these transcripts, like other transcripts that were not released despite their public importance, to understand that this happened in Israel. To understand that this is the outgoing chief of staff of the State of Israel, who brought up and perhaps will again bring up entering political life. That this is the new dawn of several public figures and simpleton journalists, and not such simpletons, close to Ashkenazi, that the comptroller decided not to expose in all their turpitude. … You need to read these explosive materials to understand that we are not talking about a stumble, a personal mistake or a failure of judgment. We’re not talking about a detour or crossing the line temporarily, momentarily, without importance.”

Fight the Shelivnapid

Harpaz reports may come and go, but divisive party politics are here to stay. Maariv reports that rather than be frightened by the center-left’s attempts to coalesce and form a blocking bloc, the Likud is actually happy, because they finally have a worthy opponent to smear (Bennett who?), and a serious challenge that can help likely voters rally around the Biberman.

“The message we are getting out is that [the left] wants to fell us, and so come and join up in order to save what we have,” a senior member, unnamed as always, of the Likud-Beytenu propaganda machine told Maariv. A Knesset member from the party told the paper that they now have Shelivnapid (the thousand-legged political love child of Shelly Yachimovich, Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid) exactly where they want it. “It’s lucky that not only we make mistakes, but also the idiots working against us play right into our hands. One of the main problems for us was creating an enemy for Netanyahu. Because when there’s no enemy, you can get lost.”

Another political operative told the paper the joint list would probably double down with the whole damsel in distress show. “Don’t be surprised if next week a poll leaks out of Likud showing the party getting 29 seats, in order to telegraph that there’s a problem and give the feeling of an army call-up.”

Should have stayed in school

On a completely different matter, but still talking about frenemies, Riki Siton writes in Yedioth’s op-ed section about the ultra-Orthodox education system, which has turned out some bad flaming-diaper-throwing apples. “I have no idea if those throwing stones answer to the classification of Haredi, but their behavior shows them not acting according to Torah law. It’s better to say that they do this despite their education, and not because of it.”

Haaretz’s op-ed page tackles some plain old enemies, Palestinian security prisoners, and says we should make them friends, by offering them Open University classes. “In May 2012 several prisoners petitioned the Central District Court over the matter. The court realized the petition was liable to reveal the racist discrimination inherent in the decision to deny academic studies to Palestinian security prisoners, and it therefore blocked the single Jewish security prisoner who wanted to pursue such studies from doing so.… This is a position that undermines the fundamental values of democracy, and it behooves the state to retract it as quickly as possible.”

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