Stump and dump: 6 things to know for December 25
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Israel media review

Stump and dump: 6 things to know for December 25

Netanyahu is seen as having the Likud primary in the bag, but he’s still pushing apparent half-truths as his camp slings mud at his rivals and anyone else who dares not get in line

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the conference of the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the conference of the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. Fear is an excellent motivator: A day out from the Likud primary and things are not looking great for challenger Gideon Sa’ar. On Tuesday night, popular Likud minister Gilad Erdan finally declared for Netanyahu.

  • According to Walla news, “for the last two weeks Erdan had been under heavy pressure from Sa’ar and Netanyahu to come out publicly for them.”
  • The site also notes that unlike other top Likud members who have attacked Sa’ar relentlessly, Erdan made clear he has no beef with Sa’ar candidacy, clearly leaving his options open.
  • Globes’s Tal Schnieder writes that not only did Erdan not come out publicly for Netanyahu until the last minute, but he has been completely silent since charges against Netanyahu were announced on November 21.
  • “He has not given interviews, has not answered questions about his stance on Netanyahu’s indictment or immunity,” she writes. “Erdan didn’t even show up to the Knesset to vote on it dissolving,” earlier this month.
  • Yoav Kisch, the head of Sa’ar’s campaign, tells Army Radio that he is not surprised by Erdan’s decision. “The higher up you are, the harder it is to act in a way that can anger Balfour,” he says, using a synecdoche for the prime minister.
  • Speaking to Channel 12 news, Netanyahu attack dog David Bitan says that Yuli Edelstein, the only major Likud figure yet to declare, better get himself off the fence: “Edelstein has really surprised me. He’s a thinking person, and that does not allow him to sit on the fence. I hope he’ll declare; in any case, all of his people are in our camp,” he says.
  • Bitan adds that he thinks Erdan had to come out because he wants to one day run to lead the Likud.

2. Falling Sa’ar: If comments like those sounds like threats, one can only imagine the pressure Sa’ar and those in his camp are under, which they have not been shy about.

  • Yedioth Ahronoth writes of Sa’ar’s wife Geula Even-Sa’ar and MK Michal Shir “choking up,” as they describe the campaign against them.
  • “In the last few weeks, they have called me names and slung such epithets at me that I thank God my parents aren’t alive to hear them and my kids aren’t big enough to read,” Shir is quoted saying.
  • Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer writes on Twitter that Likud people are afraid to be associated with Sa’ar, and those outside Likud are afraid to have him be associated with them. He also says leftists pointing out that Sa’ar was fine with demonization when it wasn’t against him should cool it and have some sympathy.
  • Channel 13’s Sefi Ovadia writes that Sa’ar has a strategic reason to portray himself as a victim: “In a campaign, you have to appeal to voter’s hearts, and in order to arouse emotions in voters, Sa’ar is utilizing one of Netanyahu’s favorite strategies, making himself out as someone being pursued.”

3. Everybody is a winner (but Netanyahu is the actual winner): Despite Erdan’s support, Netanyahu is not taking any chances, reports Ynet, which tracks six different appearances around the country by the prime minister on Tuesday, as he stumped for votes.

  • “Netanyahu showed confidence in his victory, not just against Sa’ar, but in the March elections,” the paper writes.
  • And he is still widely seen as having the Likud leadership vote in the bag. Haaretz’s Chaim Levinson writes that the only thing Netanyahu has to fear is literally rain on his parade, with nasty weather expected to keep some voters away from the polls.
  • “The prime minister assumes he will beat Sa’ar, but wants high turnout and a thumping in order to broadcast a warning message to the whole party: Netanyahu is the leader and there is nobody else,” he writes.
  • Like a doting parent making sure everyone gets a participation trophy, former Likud MK Carmel Shama Hacohen tells Army Radio that “the real achievement is that Sa’ar even ran.”

4. Why settle for less: The Likud primary doesn’t really make it to the front page of Israel Hayom, unless one counts an ad for Sa’ar running across the bottom.

  • But a front page story on Netanyahu “approving” 3,000 settlement units also seems designed to boost him in the primary, given past behavior.
  • The story gives few details about these 3,000 units, which are apparently not new, other than the fact that they are across the West Bank, and will come before a planning committee for approval in the next two weeks, meaning that it is not clear what Netanyahu actually approved, beyond perhaps the headline.
  • Barak Ravid in Axios reports that Netanyahu has also been pushing his Jordan Valley annexation plan, and the fact that he is the only one who can get US backing, to woo Likud voters.
  • The only problem is that US backing is not so clear at all. The State Department already denied Netanyahu’s claim of discussing it with Mike Pompeo, and the White House has refused to confirm that he discussed it with US President Donald Trump.
  • “Sources who spoke to White House officials got the impression they were not happy with Netanyahu’s annexation comments and his insinuations that Trump supported it,” he reports.

5. The rig is up: Most of Israel Hayom’s front page real estate, however, is taken up with trying to tear down the judges who will hear the case of whether Netanyahu can be tasked with forming a government.

  • “The game is rigged,” reads a front-page headline, alongside pictures of Justices Uzi Fogelman, Esther Hayut and Hanan Melcer.
  • “The Hebrew-language paper cites a “senior legal official” who claims Supreme Court President Hayut chose “activists,” who were more likely to come to a unanimous decision against the prime minister, for the panel that will hear the petition.
  • Law professor Shuki Segev writes in a column in the paper that Hayut assembled the same panel several years ago to oust mayors that had indictments against them, despite the fact that she “had no legal reason to do so.”
  • “Pundits and thinkers on the left are now pinning the ‘fate of the country’ in the hands of Hayut and pushing her to accept the petition [against Netanyahu],” he writes.
  • Rather than just ignore the claims, the court pushes back, sending a statement to the media that the determination was made “according to the rules of seniority — the most senior panel sitting in the Supreme Court, (excluding Judge [Neal] Hendel, who is the chairman of the Central Elections Committee.”
  • It calls the report “baseless and irresponsible.”

6. Stop Cleveland haste: The Hebrew media has also exposed itself as wildly irresponsible in reporting on the death of a rabbi near Cleveland, Ohio.

  • Yossi Bialo, 34, was found dead, apparently in his Beachwood home, and no cause of death was released by authorities.
  • In Hebrew media, though, several outlets reported that Bialo was shot to death and his wife injured by a person known to them who came into their home. Outlets reported breathlessly about an ongoing police chase, making the item seem like the latest unfortunate chapter in a series of attacks on Jews in the US. The item led Army Radio’s hourly newscast for much of the night and was widely covered across Hebrew media and in English as well. And it was all false.
  • A clue as to what happened is the fact that the news outlets listed Bialo’s age as 44. Apparently, in their haste to publish, Hebrew news organizations connected the death to a shooting on Cleveland’s West Side, in which a 44-year-old man was killed and his wife injured by someone they invited into their home. The suspect in that case remains at large, and when one Googled “Cleveland shooting,” it was the first thing to pop up.
  • The two incidents were not even in the same city (Beachwood is outside of Cleveland). The tiniest bit of due diligence could have avoided another stain on the sloppy Hebrew press. Instead, the fake story is forever enshrined on Page 22 of Yedioth Ahronoth and who knows where else.
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