Hebrew media review

Big bad Moish

Moshe Kahlon has an oversized ability to shake up the upcoming election season, and journalists are giddy over the prospect

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon announcing that his is leaving politics, 2012. Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon announcing that his is leaving politics, 2012. Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Jewish parody singer Country Yossi probably didn’t have Moshe Kahlon in mind when he wrote “Big Bad Moish,” but the song could well be about the single man who could bring about an oversized change to the upcoming election season.

Indeed the news that Kahlon, the rising-star politician who suddenly dropped out of politics last month, is considering starting his own party has set the Hebrew-language press atwitter like a pack of schoolgirls chasing down rumors of a New Kids on the Block reunion.

Israel Hayom, which has arguably the best pipeline into Kahlon’s (soon to be former?) Likud party (via its financial backer’s close ties with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) reports that members of the party are less than pleased with the popular communications minister’s possible foray outside Likud. “If he leaves, it’s treason,” one unnamed minister is quoted as saying.

The story notes that the party is mostly holding back its fire at Kahlon, since there’s a still a chance he’ll remain loyal to the party. That doesn’t stop one unnamed MK, though, from telling the paper that if he leaves he’ll be “more pathetic than the zigzagger [Shaul] Mofaz, since he said just this week he was staying in the Likud.” The paper also says that his new party may be a joint effort with another “traitor,” former Shas MK Haim Amsallem, who is starting a more moderate Orthodox political movement.

Haaretz reports that Kahlon is looking into poaching a number of other Likud MKs for his new party, should he create one, engaging in talks with them. Said party, according to the paper, quoting sources close to Kahlon, would seek to challenge Netanyahu’s socioeconomic policies. While Kahlon would likely support Netanyahu for another term as premier, the paper writes, he would use his power base to influence domestic policy, much as he did as communications minister by opening up the telecom market to competition, which led to a dramatic drop in prices (and a dramatic rise in Kahlon’s popularity.)

Yedioth Ahronoth makes a case that anybody following the political swampland closely enough should have seen this move by Kahlon coming, given all the anti-Likud whispers that have been coming out of his corner for two weeks now, and the frenzied efforts by Likud to keep him from splitting. Likud isn’t the only party worried about a Kahlon-led faction. The paper reports that Minister Ariel Atias, from Shas, which claims to represent religious Sephardic Jews, intimated that Kahlon was a poser for apparent plans to also represent the little Sephardic man in the halls of power. “Suddenly everybody wants to be Mizrahi. Suddenly everybody wants to worry about the poor classes,” he said.

Maariv, the only paper not to lead with Kahlon, instead chooses the bust at a psychiatric hospital — where 80 people were arrested on suspicion of abusing patients — as its lead story. “Dad, the cops saved us, we won,” one patient, who was allegedly abused, sexually and otherwise, is quoted as saying with teary eyes in the story. The paper notes that 150 cops took part in the operation and that 13 of the workers were kept in jail after being taken in for investigation. The Health Ministry told the paper that it received the first complaints about abuse last year, but was stymied in its attempts to investigate. “We tried to check more and find out the truth, but everything was always organized, and we had a feeling that somebody was covering up something and everybody was telling an incorrect story,” ministry director Roni Gamzu is quoted as saying.

No hesitation

Yedioth takes readers back to the 80s with a report on the killing of terror leader Abu Jihad in Tunis, which Israel has never fessed up to. Based on an interview with mission commander Nahum Lev, who says he shot Jihad, the story was finally cleared for publication by the military censor 12 years after Lev was killed in a car accident. “I read every page of the dossier on him. Abu Jihad was connected to horrible acts against civilians. He was a dead man. I shot him with no hesitation,” Lev says in an excerpt of the interview with Ronen Bergman (the full version of which will be published on Friday).

A call to arms

Maariv reports that Greek Orthodox community leader Father Gabriel Nadaf is being targeted with death threats since joining a call for young members of his church to volunteer for the Israeli army. According to the story, members of the community in Nazareth held an emergency meeting after seeing Nadaf call for cooperation with IDF recruitment efforts, and decided he would not be allowed into the Church of the Annunciation in the city, one of the religion’s holiest sites. Others took it even further: “They said they would separate my head from my body,” Nadaf reports somebody told him over the phone, in one of several threatening calls he has received.

Haaretz, unafraid of death threats, also calls on youngsters to join the army on its op-ed page, though from the other Orthodox community, and says politicians must start doing their jobs to make sure it happens. “This year the percentage of Haredi men issued military exemptions as full-time yeshiva students reached 13.8 percent of all Israeli draft-eligible men. The figure represents a rise of 0.8% from the previous three years.… The real evaders here are the politicians. It is convenient for them to talk about issues that are beyond their control, and thus beyond their scope of responsibility, and to avoid tackling the ones where they could have an impact — and that could have an impact on them, in turn. The topic of universal military service cries out to become part of the opposition parties’ agenda.”

A call to chill

In Israel Hayom, Yaakov Ahimeir notices how many journalists are jumping into the political cesspool and calls for a cooling-off period, much like the one enjoyed by army officers and felons: “The chill-down period is demanded no less, and even more, for consumers of news, and not just journalists. And captains of communications – chief editors, news department managers, boards of directors, should have a set rule: Before considering making the move into the political arena, they must notify their superiors. And if they do decide to run, they must quit immediately. Is this how the crop of candidates for the next Knesset acted? It’s very doubtful.”

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