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Hebrew media review

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Israel Hayom acts like it won the mythical Nobelitzer for burying news in its interview with Trump, but self-gratification aside, the US not being so hot on settlements spurs a righty rethink ahead of Netanyahu’s trip to the US

Page 3 of Israel Hayom on February 12, 2017, showing editor Boaz Bismuth meeting Donald Trump and snapshots of other papers covering the news out of that interview. (screen capture: Israelhayom.co.il)
Page 3 of Israel Hayom on February 12, 2017, showing editor Boaz Bismuth meeting Donald Trump and snapshots of other papers covering the news out of that interview. (screen capture: Israelhayom.co.il)

Newspapers get scoops sometimes. It happens. Even low circulation zines sometimes get to interview pop stars and sometimes high circulation tabloids get to talk to one of the most powerful men in the world and make news by relaying what he said. When that happens, you celebrate a little, play up the story, and then eventually move on.

Not Israel Hayom, though. Two days after dropping a bombshell with a preview of its interview of US President Donald Trump, the paper (which has been known to self-indulge by leading off with its circulation numbers) makes like it won some sort of Pulitzer-Nobel hybrid with several pages of Boaz Bismuth recounting his magical time in the Oval Office.

The story is adorned with pictures of editor Bismuth standing with Trump as well as snapshots of various other news outlets from around the world that picked up the news, forgetting the fact that the pro-Netanyahu tabloid’s writeup totally missed the news that Trump pulled an apparent 180 on support for settlement building.

What is the news, according to Israel Hayom? If one goes by the headline, it’s that Trump likes Israel or that he believes the Palestinians will have to compromise. If one goes by the story, it’s that Bismuth got to get off the plane before anyone else in Washington and telling himself he was late for a very important date with the president, an anecdote that bafflingly starts off the story, which is told in chronological order.

Much of the story, especially the first several hundred words, is filled with meaningless pabulum like that, which readers have to chew through to get to the meat of the story.

Like this anecdote as Bismuth finally gets to the White House:

“‘Come closer, come let’s do the interview here,’ Trump invites me to come to his desk and to feel as at home at possible,” Bismuth writes, recalling the start of the interview. “‘How are you?’ he asks me casually and graciously as an old friend, the president of the United States. I immediately say that though we met several times, this time it’s really not the same. Papers piled high on his desk. He speaks in a slower and quieter tone, it seems to me.”

It could also be that Israel Hayom’s last “interviews” with Trump were actually just Bismuth snatching a word here and there when bumping into Trump at events.

Bismuth’s babbling aside, the tabloid did stumble onto some amount of news over the weekend and it continues to create shockwaves on Sunday, with analysts predicting a rethink by right-wingers who had thought Trump would make the settlement enterprise great again.

Haaretz’s front page reports that Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, apparently seeing what Trump told Bismuth, threatened over the weekend that “the ground will shake” if Trump and Netanyahu utter any support for Palestinian statehood.

“If in their statement after the meeting Trump and Netanyahu will mention the commitment to establishing Palestine, or two states in one phrasing or another, we’ll all feel it in the coming years,” the paper quotes him writing on Facebook.

Donning his analyst cap for the broadsheet, Barak Ravid notes that one of the most amazing things about the Israel Hayom interview was that it was published just hours after Trump and Israel Hayom owner Sheldon Adelson sat down for a scrumptious dinner.

“This was certainly not the interview Adelson expected to read in the paper the following day, especially after he contributed $125 million to Trump’s election campaign,” he writes. “Many on the Israeli right thought Trump’s victory was the equivalent of the arrival of the Messiah, and that now the road was paved to annexing the West Bank with the blessings of the White House. The problem is that the person who has the greatest influence on American policy in the Middle East is not Sheldon Adelson, but Rex Tillerson, the brand new Secretary of State, who was CEO of ExxonMobil and looks more like a 2017 model of James Baker. During his many years in the world of energy, Tillerson worked very closely with Arab nations, while it is doubtful if he ever met an Israeli during his career. The huge machinery of his State Department has gotten down to work, and this is clear too from the voices now coming out of the White House.”

Yedioth leads off its front page with what it calls an exclusive reporting that UN chief Antonio Guterres is weighing making MK Tzipi Livni a deputy UN chief as a salve to push through the appointment of former Palestinian prime minister Salaam Fayyad as special envoy to Libya.

But the paper’s real lead story is a preview of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to do his best Bismuth impressions and meet Trump himself later this week.

“Iran, Iran and Iran. If it depended on Netanyahu, that would be the main issue during the meeting with Ttrump,” reads the paper’s lede. “And what of moving the embassy to Jerusalem? From Israel’s perspective, it can wait.”

Columnist Orly Azulay comes to much the same conclusion as Ravid, apparently colored by the Israel Hayom interview, though without mentioning the hated rival.

“The Israel right opened the champagne too early with Trump’s election. Presidents come and go, but there’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and also no magic solutions,” she writes. “Netanyahu will be received in Washington with much pomp, a lot of bells and whistles and pleasantries. But in the White House he will find himself on notice. But if he wants to surprise even himself, he’ll come with a plan in hand.”

In Israel Hayom’s telling, though, the feting of Netanyahu is all there is to see.

“Those around the prime minister say Netanyahu and Trump have a good relationship that will be strengthened. Netanyahu’s goal will be to create a personal connection with the prime minister and to bolster the existing trust between the sides,” the paper writes, including a likely mistake. “Netanyahu will be received warmly, and the proof of that is the fact that he is staying in the official guesthouse of the White House, the Blair House, and the expected meeting between the wives of the leaders, Sara Netayahu and Melania Trump.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consults with his advisers at Blair House in Washington, May 2011. Gil Shefer is at far left. Dore Gold is at far right. Ron Dermer sits, second from the right, with back to camera in short-sleeved shirt. Yaakov Amidror (bearded), Yitzhak Molcho (partially obscured by Netanyahu) and former cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser (black T-shirt, spectacles) are also at the table. (Photo credit: Avi Ohayon/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consults with his advisers at Blair House in Washington, May 2011. (Photo credit: Avi Ohayon/Flash90)

The paper’s supposed “proof” falls apart with only a simple Google search showing that he stayed at the Blair House in 2011 when the hated Barack Obama — cursed be his name — was still despotically trying to make America fail.

Either way, Netanyahu doesn’t have to go all the way to the Blair House to get a verbal spanking from a president, with Israel’s own Reuven Rivlin so close by. On Haaretz’s front page, Rivlin is quoted warning that the new Regulation Law will cause Israel to be seen as an apartheid state, shocking words from the right-winger and former one-state proponent.

“Israel has adopted international law. It does not allow a country acting according to it to apply and enforce its laws on territories that are not under its sovereignty,” he is quoted saying at a meeting last week. “If it does so, it is a legal cacophony. It will cause Israel to be seen as an apartheid state, which it is not.”

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