Hebrew media review

The aftermath of Kan

The public broadcaster is still the top of the agenda, but the real question is whether Israel is about to go to elections

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israeli news anchor Geula Even, a witness in the court case against former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on June 12, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)
Israeli news anchor Geula Even, a witness in the court case against former Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on June 12, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)

It’s safe to say that the average Israeli doesn’t much care about Kan — the new public broadcaster — or the horse trading between coalition partners to reach a compromise. What most care about is the bottom line of whether or not they’re going to be sent back to the polls for a third national election in four years over some political squabbling.

So long as the old-new public broadcasting corporation crisis remains unresolved, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition hangs in the balance, the issue will remain in the top headlines, as it does in Tuesday’s papers. But are we close to ending this petty election crisis that may end up costing the taxpayers nearly as much as the new broadcaster? Depends which paper you read.

In Haaretz, a source close to the prime minister says he’s serious about holding elections if he doesn’t get his way. The paper says Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon are nowhere near a compromise on the issue. The decision by the broadcaster to make Geula Even-Sa’ar, the wife of Netanyahu’s former ally Gideon Sa’ar who retired from politics, the main anchor stuck in Netanyahu’s craw.

That’s the front page story in Yedioth Ahronoth, which cites another unnamed Likud source saying that when Netanyahu heard about Even-Sa’ar, he blew a gasket.

“The appointment of Geula Even to the broadcaster enraged Bibi and Sara [Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife],” a senior Likud party official tells the paper. “To appoint the wife of Gideon Sa’ar to a senior position in the broadcaster he hates is thought of as a red flag for them — it was too much.”

What it doesn’t explain is why this is such a big deal, or why the premier’s wife’s opinion is influencing national policies. Either way, the paper does its best to make Netanyahu appear petty.

The paper quotes Netanyahu instructing his lieutenants to “harden positions” and insist that no deal has been reached. Yedioth Ahronoth outlines Netanyahu’s demands: new leadership in the corporation, passing a law requiring political oversight of the broadcaster, hiring more IBA employees, and changing the name from Kan to “The New Public Broadcasting Authority.”

Crisis? What crisis? By the looks of Israel Hayom’s coverage everything is hunky-dory. It informs its readers that as of publication last night, negotiators had agreed to a new framework, according to which the new and old broadcasters would be merged together and be given new leadership. The paper quotes “sources involved in the negotiations” saying that the main problem is the lack of time until the new broadcaster was supposed to open, but that argument holds as much water as a cup made of toilet paper. Never mind the fact that this whole issue was thought to be over and done with back in November, giving the parties ample time to hammer out the details before April 30’s launch.

The headline “Everything is still open (i.e., on the table)” is probably meant to be reassuring, but it’s not. Israel Hayom quotes a “Likud source” saying that “contrary to the claims in the media, the prime minister didn’t agree to any arrangement concerning the broadcaster.” An unnamed source closed to Kahlon saying the finance minister was open to negotiating with Netanyahu, so long as the solution doesn’t break the bank.

Israel Hayom continues to project confidence and the image that Netanyahu has things under control with its main story, with military officials saying the Arrow missile interception on Friday shows that “in this situation there are no dilemmas.” Oh yeah? How about that Hezbollah missile arsenal that keeps generals awake at night and which Israel Hayom thoughtfully didn’t ask about? It reports that next month the David’s Sling missile defense program will go online and Israel will have nothing to worry about.

Except perhaps for the rise of the thought police that’s happening here at home, of course. Haaretz reports that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has attempted to compile a database listing Israelis who are involved with or supportive of BDS initiatives against the Jewish state. The attorney general, however, informed the Likud minister that his powers don’t extend to gathering information about citizens in such a manner. Three Israeli officials tell the paper that Erdan has been working on this pet project of his for a few months, and has set up a team to gather information on foreign citizens involved in the BDS movement. Now he wants them to do the same with Israelis, by gathering public information from social media about BDS activists.

With all this nonsense going on at home, pictures, but little substance, from Netanyahu’s trip to China are all that make the main headlines in the papers. Expect Netanyahu to come home grousing about how the press ignores him.

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