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Hebrew media review

Apoplexy now

After Ya’alon steps down, papers finally get a crack at weighing in on the political tumult, with a dollop of ‘apoplexy’ from one TV commentator thrown in for good measure

Roni Daniel, left, bangs his fist on the table during a Channel 2 studio debate, May 20, 2016 (Channel 2 screenshot)
Roni Daniel, left, bangs his fist on the table during a Channel 2 studio debate, May 20, 2016 (Channel 2 screenshot)

It took some 42 hours from the resignation of Moshe Ya’alon from his defense minister post and Knesset seat until Israeli print publications hit newsstands, but if the papers are any indication, the political tornado has anything but died down in the intervening day and a half.

In fact, it may have gained strength, fed by a Friday night rant by Channel 2 defense analyst/armchair Rambo Roni Daniel in which he raked the political leadership over the coals over the Hebron incident in which a soldier shot a wounded Palestinian assailant and the subsequent apparent appointment of a man who defended that soldier as defense minister, saying he’s not sure he wants to raise his kids in Israel.

Papers are replete with coverage of the whole sordid affair, which had been gathering for days and broke wide open Friday morning as Ya’alon announced he was stepping down and taking a break from politics, likely to be replaced by Avigdor Liberman.

Perhaps in a nod to the fact that the major news is already stale to most consumers, papers are heavy on the analysis and skimpy when it comes to the actual news and straight reporting.

Most illustrative of this inclination is Israel Hayom, which straight-up leads its front page with columnist/foreign editor Boaz Bismuth’s take on it all, as opposed to Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz, which both give at least a modicum of news before diving headfirst into opinion/analysis land.

Also unique to Israel Hayom, though unsurprising, is its support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who is seen as closely linked to the paper), as evidenced by the front-page headline “Nobody has a monopoly on morals.”

The headline isn’t a direct reference to Ya’alon’s claim that the country had lost its moral compass, though; instead it’s an attack on the rest of media, especially Channel 2’s Daniel, for backing Ya’alon and throwing a fit over how this whole affair has gone down.

“Since the news came out that Liberman would be joining the government a situation of systematic madness has been created. As if the man hadn’t already been foreign minister, as if the defense minister of the State of Israel can just wage a war on his own and isn’t overseen by the prime minister, the cabinet and the IDF brass,” he writes. “Again we have the apoplectic predictions of the commentator class, which proved last week how much it’s limited in understanding the political system – just as it’s limited in understanding how the country feels.”

It’s true that it’s hard to find a Bibi-backing word in the other two papers, though there is a goodly amount of support for Daniel, including in Haaretz, which runs a TV review column entitled “Je Suis Roni Daniel” turning him into a modern day Howard Beale.

“Daniel, the most well-known analyst without any objectivity, took it to the end of the road. On Friday he wasn’t an analyst but an interviewee, a representative of a generation,” Ravit Hecht writes. “That’s how it is when the world is crazy. Things get turned upside down.”

But the apoplexy pretty much ended with Daniel, as most commentaries in the papers are surprisingly unshrill, and if there’s anger about anything, it’s over the political skulduggery the country has been treated to the last several days.

“It’s legitimate to add Yisrael Beytenu to the government; Liberman, like [Finance Minister Moshe] Kahlon, is flesh of Likud’s flesh, a natural partner. It’s not legitimate to switch from fourth gear to reverse while driving, and then to go ahead and claim that you’re not in reverse – we’re going forward, with Liberman at the head, toward peace,” writes Nahum Barnea in Yedioth. “The addition of Liberman is totally legitimate. But it’s not legitimate to do so without explaining to his voters what happened.”

“How Netanyahu was a scaredy-cat, a liar and a national disaster, and in the course of a single night turned into your friend. More important, how does he intend to settle the difference between his wild statements over the past years over anything to do with Arabs, Israel and the region, and anything to do with army operations, given the responsibilities he will have as defense minister.”

In Haaretz, military respondent correspondent/analyst Amos Harel writes that the problem isn’t all his big talk about Arabs, but rather his opinions on rules for soldiers engaging potential enemies, which don’t exactly dovetail with the army’s way of doing things.

“Observers of Liberman’s behavior in previous ministerial posts say there will be a gap between his hawkish declarations while in the opposition and his moves once the responsibility rests on his shoulders. The immediate potential for friction between the minister and his generals lies in the latter’s public statements and the guidelines for when to open fire,” he writes. “The test will come if a similar shooting incident [to the Hebron incident where a soldier killed a wounded assailant] occurs.”

The elegant game

The cabinet shuffle isn’t the only dance getting wide coverage. A soccer championship by Hapoel Beersheba, their first in 40 years, has players and fans doing the victory boogie on all three front pages, including one very lucky lady – owner Alona Barkat — getting thrown in the air in celebration.

It’s not just a party for Barkat, but for the hardscrabble southern city, and by extension the whole country, writes jubilant Mayor Rubik Danilovich in Yedioth, quoting David Ben-Gurion’s line that “The Negev will be the litmus test for the country.”

“This is the test for all of us, to put the largest parcel of land in the country at the top of our priorities,” he writes. “Not only in sports, but across all sectors. Soccer has brought joy and gladness to the whole city and region. It’s a shot in the arm for Beersheba as a party city, hungry for success, the kind that makes dreams.”

Not to be outdone as civic booster No. 1, former mayor Yaakov Turner in Israel Hayom sings the praises of the team’s fans, using a word not often associated with soccer — “elegant” — evoking an image of them sipping tea with their pinkies up and remarking “my word!” which is wholly incompatible with the raucous celebrations in massive pictures in all the papers.

“There’s a special spirit in the stadium, the feeling of a warm home, built beautifully and gloriously, and the fans and their elegant ways add to that,” he writes, making sure to note that he’s the one who pushed the building of the stadium. “They chant and sing even during slow times in the middle of the game and it always ends well.”

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