Hebrew media review

Is Sheldon Adelson signaling support for Trump?

When an Israeli tabloid controlled by the GOP mega-donor gives exaggerated coverage to Trump-stumping by Rudy Guliani, it could mean that the casino tycoon and/or Netanyahu have made peace with the Donald winning the nomination

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during a rally in West Chester, Ohio, March 13, 2016. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during a rally in West Chester, Ohio, March 13, 2016. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)

In hindsight, it was probably inevitable. After months in which it kept a fairly uncharacteristic nuanced distance from the Republican race for the presidential nomination, Israel Hayom, the free tabloid owned by Republican donor Sheldon Adelson and considered by many to be a mouthpiece for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has come out and all but endorsed Donald Trump on its front page.

Oh sure, the words “Trump isn’t afraid to say ‘Islamic terror’” emblazoned across its front page belong to former New York mayor and current Trump mouthpiece Rudy Giuliani, but a paper doesn’t play a quote like that without showing at least a modicum of tacit support.

And if Israel Hayom has gotten anything down pat, it’s how to loudly and clearly state where it stands by putting its opinions in other people’s mouths and highlighting what they say.

The quasi-endorsement of Trump would be noteworthy if it were just made by Israel’s most-read paper. But the fact that the paper is seen as a platform for both GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson and Israel’s prime minister raises questions about whether Monday’s front page signals that they have made (likely-reluctant) peace with backing Trump.

US billionaire businessman Sheldon Adelson (L) meets with Benjamin Netanyahu during a ceremony at the Congress Hall in Jerusalem, 12 August 2007. (Flash90)
US billionaire businessman Sheldon Adelson (L) meets with Benjamin Netanyahu during a ceremony at the Congress Hall in Jerusalem, 12 August 2007. (Flash90)

It is worth noting that Adelson claims he does not exercise editorial control over Israel Hayom, which is technically owned by a relative, and Netanyahu has no formal relationship with the paper.

Still, the Page 1 Trump love-fest is even more shocking given how out of sync it is with the other major daily front pages in Israel, filled as they are with news of the deadly Ankara bombing and a double barrel of bad news for women’s rights activists.

Readers who make it past Israel Hayom’s front page will be confronted with another Trump-loving headline: “Trump calls a spade a spade,” and a picture of foreign editor Boaz Bismuth interviewing Giuliani, who I guess is important once again by virtue of having visited Israel and given interviews to the media, though both headline quotes came from comments Giuliani made to Bismuth weeks earlier when they met in the US.

At least the paper is straightforward enough to mention the fact that Trump and Giuliani are good friends (though it somehow leaves out the fact that Giuliani once dressed in drag to allow Trump to nuzzle his boobs), yet it still acts like the support of the “mythological former New York mayor” is somehow newsworthy.

The paper doesn’t only give Giuliani, who says he is an informal Trump adviser, a soapbox to stump for Trump, but also lets him bash President Barack Obama, and Democrat candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. But most of the interview is devoted to gushing over how great his guy is.

“Maybe because of his background as a reality TV presenter, I think he has developed an exaggerated television personality,” Giuliani is quoted saying, in a free translation of his comments from Hebrew back into English. “The real Trump is thoughtful and wise, very learned. He has a lot of political knowledge, and he has chosen to support good people, or at least that’s how I understand the fear around him. We have a candidate who is being investigated by the FBI for leaking hundreds of top secret documents and who has a conflict of interests. The press ignores that and what do they focus on? On Trump.”

Politicians being investigated for wrongdoing is nothing new in Israel, where a former president is sitting in prison over sexual harassment convictions. Yedioth Ahronoth leads off its paper with a hullabaloo surrounding reports that President Reuven Rivlin and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked are looking to spring Moshe Katsav from the can early.

The paper reports that Rivlin is livid at Shaked for leaking details about their support for the pardon to Channel 10 last week, and people around the president deny he would back a pardon without support from the public and Katsav’s victims.

As for the public, an informal poll on the paper’s website shows Israeli are against letting Katsav walk about three-to-one, and as for the victims, they don’t love the idea either.

“It’s strange to me that even before the parole board has met, the justice minister will go ahead and say she’s ready to pardon a sexual offender,” the paper quotes from a letter sent to the board by one woman who filed a complaint against Katsav (but whose case against him was not included in the conviction). “It is angering and frustrating that the person doing this is a minister in Israel, who should naturally be expected to care for the rights of a victim before a sex offender.”

The woman who sent the letter, known only by her initial as Aleph from the Tourism Ministry, would never have been able to file a complaint against the president had he been a cop instead of a politician and had new rules being considered by the police been in effect when she came forward a decade ago.

Haaretz, citing Channel 2, reports that police chief Roni Alsheich said during a conference for International Women’s Day that he is against letting people make anonymous sexual harassment or rape claims against police.

The paper reports that some in the police see the complaints as a method used by cops to settle scores against colleagues by getting them in trouble, saying that a “culture” has developed around it. But the paper also reports that the Justice Ministry unit tasked with investigating complaints against police said it will continue to probe accusations, even from anonymous sources.

“Every complaint that reaches the department will be investigated, as has been done until now,” the paper quotes a department source saying.

It’s a good thing the investigations unit isn’t like the Swedes or they may have just given in and let Alscheich have his way.

At least that’s how Yedioth characterizes a meeting between MK Tzipi Livni and Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, running the headline “Swedish folding,” and citing Livni saying she convinced Wallstrom to walk back her support for a boycott on Israel.

“According to Livni, at the end of the conversation Wallstrom was persuaded away from her previous stances and agreed to publicly state – likely on Twitter – her opposition to a boycott on Israel and to issue support for Israel to defend itself,” reads the report, which includes no comment from Wallstrom or acknowledgement of the fact that Wallstrom never publicly called for a boycott on Israel. “According to Livni, Wallstrom also expressed her support for the idea of two states and hopes that ties with Israel would return to how they were.”

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