The binding of Isaac
Hebrew media review

The binding of Isaac

After six hours of Herzog getting grilled by the cops, the press wonders how much longer before the opposition chief is making sandwiches full time

Isaac Herzog leads a Zionist Union faction meeting in the Knesset on February 22, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Isaac Herzog leads a Zionist Union faction meeting in the Knesset on February 22, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Six hours is long enough to fly from Tel Aviv to Mumbai, long enough to watch two-thirds of Claude Lanzmann’s “Shoah,” long enough to make some kickass osso buco or a whole lot of sandwiches, and long enough to grill a politician until he’s well done enough to throw a whole party, a party that used to be synonymous with power in Israel, into disarray.

Six hours. That’s the magic number that appears on the front pages of Israel’s top two tabloids denoting the amount of time opposition head Isaac Herzog was questioned by police on Sunday. (In Haaretz, the number is only five hours and the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.) The story isn’t just Herzog getting subjected to a criminal probe but also the political fallout from the investigation, which leads to a mix of punditry frothing over the thought of a fall from power and voices counseling for everyone to keep calm. And a sandwich.

“Before six hours had passed he left the investigation room with the label ‘suspect’ following him and the legal and political battle ahead of him more tangible than ever,” Yedioth reports, adding that the Zionist Union chief denied knowing anything about illegal donations during a primary campaign for Labor leadership and claimed he reported everything to the correct authorities.

The ramifications of Herzog being questioned could be huge, but the tabloids seem to instead focus on a bit of colorful minutia: the fact that Herzog brought sandwiches with him to the questioning, which is played up in both papers.

Those sandwiches (no word on what kind they were) make Israel Hayom’s headline on the story, though it seems the tabloid’s own cafeteria was serving cold revenge pie with a side of snotty neener-neenery on Sunday night.

“It seems Isaac Herzog knew it was just a matter of time,” the paper writes in its news story. “Since the snowball started rolling with an Israel Hayom investigation about a year ago, the opposition head understood that police investigators were expected to summon him to be questioned. Yesterday it happened: Boujie packed up his prepared sandwiches and his version of the case – and was questioned under caution for six hours in the officer of the Lahav 433 police division.”

Haaretz doesn’t seem to care much about the sandwiches or what Herzog told the fuzz and instead jumps headfirst into the political fallout, as the party leader tried to calm his party down in the face of some calls for him to step down. Political analyst Yossi Verter takes note of the fact that many in the party stood behind Herzog, but not leadership rival Shelly Yachimovich.

“Shelly Yachimovich didn’t join the hugfest. On the contrary, she exploited this development to slightly tighten and add a loop to the noose around Herzog’s neck,” he writes. “’I’m sure that the good of the party and the opposition is on the top of Herzog’s mind, and I will cooperate with him and with my party colleagues to determine what steps to take,’ she wrote. Sunday it seemed as if the cooperation she was referring to was solely with herself.”

In Israel Hayom, Dan Margalit predicts that the so-called hugfest afforded Herzog will quite soon be a thing of the past anyway.
“The questioning under caution of Isaac Herzog has already roiled his party, and even if he comes out without an indictment, it will be hard for him to maintain the party’s leadership. Labor is not one of those parties that stands fast behind leaders when they need to deal with police investigations, as other parties do. Instead, they give him backing at first and then quickly switch to asking questions and distancing themselves, and sometimes go all the way to petitioning for him to leave his post,” he writes. “If it turns out even worse and he is indicted, he will have no choice but to hand over the baton.”

Herzog isn’t the only one getting support in the face of trouble with police. The soldier accused of killing a wounded Palestinian stabber in Hebron last month is also still garnering oodles of backing, including a gaggle of pop stars who signed on to appear at a support rally for the soldiers, drawing the well-earned ire of the press. Eyal Golan, the biggest name to put his name behind the rally (though he pulled out under pressure Monday morning), takes most of the heat.

“Why has Golan decided to place himself as far as possible from the army’s command and the moral stances they represent,” columnist Yossi Yehoshua asks in Yedioth. “What are soldiers, many of whom love Golan, sing his songs and go to his shows, supposed to think? That their favorite singer wants them to take the law (gun) into their own hands and shoot in the head every subdued terrorist that lies on the ground?”

While Golan’s participation in the rally leads the Haaretz story, the paper also reports that the soldier is expected to be charged on Monday, something that does not happen every day.

“This will be the first time in over 10 years that an IDF soldier has been charged with manslaughter for a killing that took place during field operations,” the paper reports. “The last such case known to the Yesh Din organization, which keeps track of law enforcement against IDF soldiers, was that of Sgt. Taysir al-Heib, who shot British peace activist Tom Hurndall in April 2003. Hurndall died nine months later. Heib was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment.”

Only Israel Hayom doesn’t seem very disturbed by the presence of Israeli pop idols at the rally, reporting matter-of-factly on the demonstration at the bottom of its coverage.

“The wave of public protest against the continued arrest of the soldier and severe indictment will reach a new peak tomorrow night in Rabin Square. In a message sent out by former MK Sharon Gal, he called on the masses to take part in the rally at 7:30 p.m,” the paper reports, before quoting Gal’s call to action: “This is a moment of truth for us, we need to put in effort and come, to leave Facebook and go out onto the street.”

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