Olympic fever
Hebrew media review

Olympic fever

Doctors are on partial strike and Netanyahu plans a bill to crack down on journalists — but sports are what’s for breakfast

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Yarden Gerbi celebrates after winning third place in the women's under-63kg judo contest at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 9, 2016. (AFP/Toshifumi Kitamura)
Yarden Gerbi celebrates after winning third place in the women's under-63kg judo contest at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 9, 2016. (AFP/Toshifumi Kitamura)

The tabloids still bask in the glory of the Rio Olympics after Yarden Gerbi won a bronze earlier this week. The top coverage in Israel Hayom is devoted to the judoka, whereas the front pages of Yedioth Ahronoth are dedicated to Michael Phelps winning his 21st gold medal. Ads for air conditioners feature Israeli athletes.

Haaretz, in the meantime, goes for the gold in its coverage of the prime minister’s machinations in its front-page coverage.

Israel Hayom calls Gerbi “the champion of modesty” as it gives wall-to-wall coverage of her post-victory celebrations and reactions. It devotes a whole article to the first-ever Israeli Olympic medal winner speaking to Gerbi — the latest champ.

How many Olympic medal-winning judo athletes can be squeezed into a single 300-word article, you might ask? Israel Hayom manages three, including Yael Arad and Arik Zeevi, and throws in Israel Judo Association chairman Moshe Ponte — who won a silver in an international competition in 1986, but never the Olympics — for good measure.

Too bad the doctors are on strike, because Israel Hayom should be tested for judo fever. It runs an op-ed, of sorts, written by Shani Hershko, Gerbi’s trainer, who says he’ll never forget the moment she won the bronze, the pinnacle of which is when he calls her “a special winner.” Clearly top-shelf reportage such as this won’t be affected by Netanyahu’s bill — should it pass.

While everyone else suddenly pretends to care about judo for a moment, Yonatan Yavin in his Yedioth Ahronoth op-ed bemoans the disproportionate funding given to soccer in Israel — despite its meager successes. Soccer gets heaps of money and the national team might manage “an honorable draw,” whereas the sports Israel excels at — basketball, judo, tennis and sailing — get far less.

Judokas like Gerbi have to fund their own way to glory, and what she’ll get as a bonus from the government for winning the bronze won’t offset her investment. “I feel like grabbing the priorities of the sports budget in Israel and giving it an ippon,” Yavin writes, referring to the judo term for the most masterful slam.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reforms are in the crosshairs in this morning’s Haaretz, with a bill in the works that would make it illegal to record someone without their knowledge, a measure which — according to the paper — would be a blow to investigative journalism.

Covert recording, writes Haaretz’s Ido Baum, is “a tool for exposing injustices” and the bill proposed by Netanyahu is “an attempt to deny citizens that small power” and will mainly harm journalism.

While the details of the bill are still unclear, he says that “the consequences are clear” — it would be “another nail in the coffin of the gatekeepers.

“Netanyahu’s initiative befits the Erdogans and Putins of the world, leaders who fear the power of their country’s citizens and prefer to weaken them,” continues Baum.

Haaretz also reports that the Communications Ministry and a Likud minister tasked with reform to telecom giant Bezeq are trying to scupper a motion that would deal a major blow to a close associate of Netanyahu’s. The move would require Bezeq to open up its fiber-optic cables to other companies for a cost, freeing up the market to competition, but dealing a major blow to Bezeq, whose owner is a friend of Netanyahu, the paper reports.

Israel Hayom spins the issue in a positive light, telling its readers that the reform pushed by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon will make cable service — through Hot and Yes — cheaper. Couple that with the cabinet’s approval of opening up the electronics market to greater import competition, and it could see Israelis spending less on big-screen TVs.

Top importance for Yedioth Ahronoth is the partial doctors’ strike that has threatened to cripple Israel’s hospitals. Efforts to prevent the strike through mediation failed, Israel Hayom reports. The doctors’ union claims the aim of the strike is to improve public health, Yedioth reports, and demanding more money in return.

But the paper notes that when the docs started their work dispute, the issue was the Health and Finance Ministries’ attempt to clamp down on doctors operating in private clinics, which would hurt the surgeons’ wallets.

Both Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth give advice to readers about who’s striking, how it will affect medical services, and how to avoid waiting unnecessarily.

Yedioth Ahronoth also reports that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan ordered the placement of more traffic cameras at stoplights across the country in an effort to crack down on drivers running reds. Police will put cameras at 90% of red lights across the country — 300 in total, and start bringing violators to court instead of issuing fines. The move comes after a truck driver zipped through a red light and slammed into a car earlier this month in northern Israel, killing a woman and her daughter.

Will that stop seven-year-old kids from driving tractors down the street — as Yedioth Ahronoth reports today — or toddlers from riding dune buggies down the highway? Probably not.

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