Hebrew media review

Donald Trumps the Hebrew media

Israel Hayom steps out of the dark and all but fully endorses the billionaire businessman, while Yedioth watches the GOP front-runner and worries

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a primary night press conference at the Mar-A-Lago Club's Donald J. Trump Ballroom March 15, 2016 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a primary night press conference at the Mar-A-Lago Club's Donald J. Trump Ballroom March 15, 2016 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

The US presidential primaries of both the Democratic and the Republican parties are on the minds of Israel’s leading Hebrew-language newspapers, with each trying less and less to hide their preferred outcome for the upcoming elections in the land of the free.

There’s no longer any room for doubt about which Republican candidate Israel Hayom has decided to endorse. Throwing all its eggs in the Trump basket, the daily leads with a nearly full-page photo of the mega-successful businessman, his thumbs raised as he smiles alongside an equally giddy reporter Boaz Bismuth, under the headline “Your friend is leading the race.”

Perhaps it was a recent poll showing that Israelis favor Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton to succeed US President Barack Obama that mobilized the editors of the right-leaning, neoconservative Israel Hayom to aggressively attempt to sway the citizens of the Jewish state in favor of the contentious front-runner. Or perhaps it is billionaire casino magnate, pro-Israel philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, Israel Hayom’s owner and, not incidentally, one of the GOP’s most prominent donors, who is pulling the strings from above and indicating through the pages of the Israeli tabloid that he is warming up to the idea of Trump as the Republican nominee.

Either way, Bismuth’s interview with Trump, conducted in Palm Beach, Florida, after the results of Tuesday’s state primary were announced reads like the GOP candidate himself issued a tailor-made PR piece aimed at the hearts of the Israeli masses, addressing their fears on a most basic level while shying away slyly from the more controversial aspects of the emerging Republican nominee’s campaign. “I was always your friend, and even in the toughest moments that will not change,” Trump is quoted by Bismuth as saying.

Bismuth is beside himself for even being granted the opportunity to interview Trump, going on and on about the candidate’s energy at Florida rallies, his growing support base, and his lavish display of wealth and power. “I must admit,” the veteran Israel Hayom reporter writes, “I was excited to be among the 300 media personalities invited [to Trump’s event in Florida], almost all of whom were American.”

Bismuth goes to the trouble of finding a Trump-supporting Jewish rabbi in the crowd (which, the reporter enthusiastically notes, went wild as the front-runner finished his speech). “It’s pure nonsense when they say Trump is a racist,” the rabbi decisively tells Bismuth. “And besides that, he loves Jews, just look at his daughter. She converted and married an Orthodox Jew.”

Rival paper Yedioth Ahronoth is a little less content with Trump’s string of primary victories, leading its article on the Republican party race with a headline that can be read in two completely different tones – “The end is in sight.” Yedioth chooses to highlight Trump’s warning to the GOP establishment that should they block his way to the nomination “there will be riots.” Reporter Orly Azulai, Yedioth’s correspondent to the US, lays out some scenarios in which Trump does not win the nomination, but ultimately concedes that the chances of any other candidate beating the current front-runner are “bleak, at best.”

At the same time, however, Yedioth features an analysis that offers thinly veiled praise of Democratic front-runner Clinton, who, writer Alon Pinkas determines, “looks presidential.” While she may not be the most remarkable candidate the Democrats could have asked for, Pinkas assesses, her victories in recent state primaries, her style, and her experience are exactly what the average party voter finds attractive in light of Trump’s campaign. Pinkas goes on with a spot of Trump bashing, concluding that since the billionaire businessman is an “ignoramus, a narcissist, theatrical, and rude,” and as he threatens the Republican establishment, the party will be “torn to shreds, and its chances of capturing the White House will drop to below 50%.”

Haaretz, for the most part, stays away from US politics, reserving only a small section of its front page for a syndicated New York Times and Guardian report on Tuesday’s primary results. Instead, the paper focuses on Reuven Rivlin’s diplomatic visit to Russia, where according to reporter Barak Ravid, the president requested of his counterpart Vladimir Putin to work towards reinstating UN special observer and peacekeeping forces on the Golan Heights and along the border between the Jewish state and war-torn Syria. The Israeli president reportedly explained that the move would help bring stability to the Jewish state’s northern border.

Rivlin’s request, conveyed from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, comes on the backdrop of Putin’s surprising announcement that Russia will begin withdrawing its troops from Syria, in a move likely to introduce even more chaos to the bloody conflict that has recently entered its sixth year. The two statesmen discussed Russia’s troop pullout from Syria as well as continued coordination between Jerusalem and Moscow regarding military activities along the Syrian front.

In a fascinating piece, Haaretz writer Nir Hasson unravels the peculiar story behind how a mysterious musical instrument came to be minted on the back of the Israeli half shekel coin, and why the choice was a serious mistake. An effigy of the instrument was found on the back of a stamp which was dug up by archaeologist Nahman Avigad in 1979. Avigad, who dated the stamp back to biblical times, asserted that the instrument may have been a depiction of a nebel, which was famously played by the mythical King David. Six years later, the Bank of Israel chose to mint the instrument on half shekel coins. However, Hasson writes, most scientists and researchers now believe that the stamp uncovered by Avigad was a forgery, and that the instrument was completely conjured up in the mind of the counterfeiter. So stick to credit cards; that’s real money right there.

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