The gifts that keep on giving
Hebrew media review

The gifts that keep on giving

Israel is once again denounced for settlement plans, Liberman still faces a looming indictment and another media outlet announces cutbacks

A Ramat Shlomo construction site, Tuesday, December 18 (photo credit: Oren Nahshon/Flash90)
A Ramat Shlomo construction site, Tuesday, December 18 (photo credit: Oren Nahshon/Flash90)

Another day, another US condemnation of Israel’s East Jerusalem construction plans.

“The US: Israel is a serial provocateur,” reads the top headline in Yedioth Ahronoth. To which Israel Hayom‘s top headline counters: “Despite the condemnations, ‘construction will go ahead.'”

If it weren’t for the wording of the denunciations, Israel’s newspapers could simply cut and paste their top headlines from yesterday’s editions. The stories are essentially the same; the only difference is the number of approved housing units and their proposed locations.

Now, considering Israel’s multi-layered housing permit bureaucracy, and anticipating that similar responses will follow every stage of the approval process, for every new West Bank or East Jerusalem neighborhood, there is no end in sight to the cycle.

Will it ever end? Maybe after the elections. Maariv features a front page story that says  that the recent flurry of government building approvals, aside from being payback for the Palestinians’ UN statehood bid, are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s idea of an elections campaign.

Unnamed Likud ministers and MKs are quoted talking about how the advancement of building permits in East Jerusalem neighborhoods like Gilo and Ramat Shlomo, and West Bank settlements like Karnei Shomron, Efrat, and Givat Ze’ev, coincide with Netanyahu’s reelection campaign, providing him and the ministers with valuable exposure on primetime news shows and highlighting their pro-settler credentials at a time when they face competition for the right-wing vote.

“It’s about time that people here [in the party] realized that Likud voters are in favor of construction in Jerusalem and the settlements.” one minister is quoted as saying.

While they’re at it, the newspapers might as well use the same copy-paste method for the Liberman saga too. Though yesterday’s papers were full of reports on the ex-foreign minister’s imminent indictment on fraud and breach of trust charges, today’s papers reveal that not only was he not indicted, but that the state prosecution is considering extending the investigation, which could push the indictment back by days or weeks.

Maariv’s journalists went ahead and did what police investigators and state lawyers apparently failed to do, and spoke to members of the Foreign Ministry committee that appointed Ze’ev Ben Aryeh to his ambassadorial post, to find out whether Liberman used his influence as minister to get the man who allegedly handed him secret information about an investigation into his affairs his next foreign posting to Latvia.

In a nutshell, the committee members told Maariv that though Liberman never approached them on the matter, his deputy Danny Ayalon did. That, according to them, was enough to make it clear whom they needed to appoint.

Haaretz reports that if official investigators follow up on the findings, it would mean opening a new section to Liberman’s indictment sheet, with all the accompanying legal requirements, something that the Attorney General may not wish to do and which Liberman, who wants to put his legal affairs behind him before the elections, surely doesn’t.

Another person who has to fear for her political future today is Balad MK Hanin Zoabi. The controversial parliamentarian, who participated in the Free Gaza flotilla in 2010 aboard the Mavi Marmara and is accused by her right-wing peers of supporting the Palestinian armed struggle against Israel, is waiting for the Central Elections Commission to vote on a petition that seeks to disqualify her from running in the elections.

“Signs indicate: The commission will disqualify, the Supreme Court will approve,” reads Israel Hayom’s front page headline. The story reports that though there may be a majority in the commission who vote to ban Zoabi from participating in the elections, the Supreme Court can overturn the committee’s ruling as it did in the past when Arab parties were disqualified.

Both Haaretz and Yedioth Ahronoth feature front page stories based on the recent National Council for the Child annual report. Yedioth offers its readers a first-person account by a 12-year-old boy whose family suffers from acute poverty, who writes about living with the constant pangs of hunger and the “shame of being poor.” Haaretz simply provides an endless account of depressing statistics that indicate that more and more families are slipping under the poverty line and that the state is increasingly unable to help them.

All the papers dedicate much room to report on the most recent crisis facing the Hebrew media. Following in the footsteps of Maaariv, Haaretz and Channel 10, Channel 2, reports claim, is the next news outlet to face cutbacks. The widely viewed network announced yesterday that its nightly 8 p.m. news broadcast would be truncated from its hour-long format and end at 8:45 pm, as the station grapples with budget cuts. The channel also announced the immediate cancellation of two news programs, “Six with Oded Ben Ami” and “Meet the Press.”

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