Hebrew media review

Netanyahu’s moment of truth

Ahead of possible indictment recommendations in PM corruption cases, Hebrew media plays the blame game while trying to predict what the future holds for the premier

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office on February 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Jim Hollander)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office on February 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Jim Hollander)

Hebrew-language newspapers on Thursday are unsurprisingly dominated by the growing number of reports signaling that police are set to recommend indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges in the coming days.

For regular readers of Israeli media, this is no surprise, as the unfolding saga of the prime minister’s alleged corruption has consumed news cycles ever since police announced the criminal investigation just over a year ago.

Yedioth Ahronoth on its front page declares that “the moment of truth” is coming for Netanyahu, who they claim is bracing for a corruption indictment.

The daily dedicates the much of its coverage to the growing spat between Netanyahu and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, who last night said that “powerful people” have been gathering information about police investigators involved in the cases against the prime minister.

Columnist Sima Kadron levels harsh criticism of Netanyahu for publicly criticizing the police chief, painting his remarks directed at Alsheich as a last-ditch effort to deflect attention from his own wrongdoings.

But “the hourglass is running out. By next week we’ll know if if there is nothing, or not,” she says.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Chief of Police Roni Alsheikh at an inauguration ceremony marking the opening of a new police station in the northern Arab town of Jisr az-Zarqa. November 21, 2017. (Basel Awidat/ Flash90)

“The prime minister says to relax. After all, we all know that he’ll be recommended [for indictment],” she asserts.

Haaretz accuses Netanyahu of angrily “lashing out” at police, and suggests Netanyahu sought to dissuade Alsheich from pursuing criminal investigations against him by offering him a promotion to the head of the Shin Bet security service.

But the left-wing daily gives its most prominent coverage on Thursday to the impending collapse of the health care system in Gaza.

The paper reports that at the end of last month the public health care system in the Strip had run out of 206 essential medicines, 40 percent of medications included in basic health care coverage. A further 27 drugs – or 6 percent of the 516 medications in the basket – were about to be depleted within days or weeks.

According to Haaretz, Gaza hospital directors and medical teams are now faced with extreme dilemmas of prioritization. Doctors have resorted to diluting medications, while some hospotals are closing entire wards due to the lack of medicines and equipment.

Both Haaretz and Yedioth in their respective papers on Thursday don’t hold back in criticizing the rabbi who, teaching at a pre-military religious academy in the West Bank, told future IDF recruits last year that women were “weak-minded” and possessed a reduced capacity for spirituality.

Haaretz illustrator Amos Biderman shows Rabbi Yosef Kelner along with other rabbis who have made disparaging remarks about women recently, fainting and wetting themselves when faced with two female combat soldiers.

Yedioth’s cartoonist similarly shows a young religious man reading a book by Kelner titled “50 Shades of Black” while he nervously waits to see a female doctor.

In a guest column, a rabbi and head of education at Midreshet Ein Hanatziv, David Ben Yitzhak, harshly criticizes Kelner for deliberately “humiliating women.”

Ben Yizhak says that rabbis like Kelner are unable to cope with changes in culture and social structures, and are desperately trying to preserve the patriarchal status quo.

“To this end they believe that women should be humiliated to the extreme. To promote gender myths about their limited capabilities… all in an effort to protect the old world order from the winds of change that are threatening to destroy it.”

Ben Yitzhak says the complexities of this type of social change are precisely why Israel needs religious leaders “who instead of fighting these changes in such a ridiculous and desperate manner, will harness them creatively and become partners in shaping and creating a spiritual response to the challenges we face.”

Meanwhile, Israel Hayom, the pro-Netanyahu daily, makes no mention of the impending recommendation to indict the prime minister.

Instead of news coverage on the topic in its Thursday paper, Israel Hayom instead suffices with a single op-ed.

Columnist Dr. Haim Shine unapologetically blasts the “Bibiphobic” left for trying to oust Netanyahu from office.

He accuses Alsheich of an “obsessive hatred” of the prime minister, and says the “filthy” police investigations into Netanyahu are the product of a “hostile media.”

Shine portrays the investigations as part of the political left’s decades-long efforts to oust Netanyahu from politics.

“For three decades, the media and its police agents have been chasing Netanyahu with no success,” Shine charges, asserting that Netanyahu will again emerge from the latest scandal unscathed.

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