2012: Netanyahu’s shadow war for the GOP begins?

Posted: January 3rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Israel’s National Security Council calls U.S. President Barak Obama “naïve,” Israel’s pro-Netanyahu daily reports

Israel Hayom, the pro-Netanyahu free tabloid published by Jewish-American gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, published a story today on recent criticism dealt by Israel’s National Security Council of US President Barak Obama’s policy towards Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

U.S. President Barack Obama is “naive” and needs to face up to the threat presented by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East, Israel’s National Security Council concluded during a strategic discussion several days ago.

The council, responsible for providing the prime minister and cabinet ministers with strategic assessments, said it was concerned about the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise in Egypt, especially in light of the group’s world view and pronouncements from its officials, repeated as recently as this week, that call the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty into question.

As the article states, the NSC is not an independent think-tank but a strategic assessment body, operating under the Prime Minister’s Office. The head of the NSC is retired IDF general Yaakov Amidror, who was a regular contributor for Israel Hayom until his appointment.

According to numerous reports in the Israeli media, Binyamin Netanyahu sees another Obama term as clear political threat to himself, to the point where he is mulling on calling early election in Israel, so that a possible Democratic victory in November doesn’t affect his standing in the polls.

Israel Hayom, which is very supportive of Netanyahu, is likely to throw its weight behind the Republican candidate. The paper has recently launched an English site, with translations of pieces from its Hebrew edition.

The coverage in Israel Hayom of Newt Gingrich’s campaign – who is considered the closest to Netanayhu of all GOP candidates and a personal favorite of Mr. Adelson – is extremely favorable, thought the even paper admitted today that Gingrich’s chances of winning the Iowa caucuses are practically non-existent.

Last year, Israel Hayom’s editor, Amos Regev, conducted a personal interview with Gingrich, in which the former House speaker called a possible Israeli attack on Iran “an act of self defense.” The paper’s response to the candidate’s hostile remarks towards the Palestinians was extremely favorable: One op-ed in Israel Hayom praised Gingrich for his “historical accuracy,” while another was titled “thank you, Mr. Gingrich.”

Sheldon Adelson recently backed Gingrich, saying that calling the Palestinians an “invented people” is correct.


The political line of Israeli papers (a reader’s guide)

Posted: October 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: media, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments »

Maariv and Yedioth Ahronoth showing the same headline (photo: yossi gurvitz)Newspapers in Israel have always been of great importance. One of the first things early Zionists did in Palestine was to create their own Hebrew papers. Every major political faction had its own publication, usually a national daily. Even today, with the decline of printed journalism, papers are still widely read, especially among opinion makers.

The Hebrew papers raise issues and frame political questions; Knesset members often quote news items and op-eds during Knesset debates, and Knesset committees conduct debates on issues exposed by the printed media. It is worth noting that Israel has never had strong local daily papers, so the printed media always tended to deal with national questions of diplomacy, politics and security, and less with local issues such as crime and local policies. So if you want to understand Israeli society and Israeli politics, you need to understand Hebrew printed media.

The old party papers died over the last two decades or so, and today’s papers don’t have a certain partisan affiliation. Papers in Israel usually don’t endorse candidates or parties, but they do have a political line. In the cases of Haaretz and Yisrael Hayom this line is very clear. With Maariv – and especially with Yedioth – it tends to be more subtle, and has changed over the years.

Here is a short guide to the political lines taken by Israel’s newspapers these days. Remember that these assessments are subjective as well, and reflect my own views and knowledge. Disclaimer: I worked for Maariv and for Yedioth’s internet division in the past, and in the past six months I have written a few stories for Haaretz.

Yedioth Ahronoth

Market Share* (June 2010): 35 percent on weekdays, 43.7 on weekends.

Internet site: Ynet (English edition here).

Politics: After years of dominating the printed media market, Israel’s leading tabloid has met a fierce rival – the free paper Yisrael Hayom, launched three years ago by gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Many people believe that this is the reason for the sharp anti-Netanyahu tone Yedioth has taken over the past year. The paper is constantly publishing articles attacking the Prime Minister, his staff and even his wife. Star pundit Nahum Barnea is especially hostile to Netanyahu; in fact, I think there is only one columnist in Yedioth – Hanoch Daum – who is an open Netanyahu supporter and a proxy to the Netanyahu family.

Leaving Netanyahu aside, Yedioth is a fairly centrist paper. It tends to be conservative on military and security issues, but more open than other tabloids when it comes to dealing with civil rights issues. The campaign the paper launched against the State Prosecution and the Supreme Court for their intervention in policy issues and nominations of high ranking officials seems to have calmed down recently.

I think people outside Israel don’t pay enough attention to Yedioth. For years, the paper was known for its ability to capture the voice of the average middle class Israeli. The front page story of the papers’ weekend magazine always presented “the man of the moment”, or the story that would be discussed during the following week. Yedioth is not as strong today – but it is still the most important media organization in Israel. Yedioth’s internet site (Ynet) is by far the most popular news site in Israel.

Yair Lapid, channel 2 anchorman and a possible candidate in the next elections, has a widely read column in Yedioth.

The bottom line for Yedioth Ahronoth: Conservative on security and Supreme Court; critical of the government and Netanyahu himself; slightly more liberal than the two other tabloids.

——————————

Yisrael Hayom

Market Share (June 2010): 35 percent on weekdays, 25.7 on weekends.

Internet site: Yisrael Hayom (Hebrew, printed edition only).

Politics: According to most estimates, Sheldon Adelson’s free tabloid, which is circulated in 250,000 copies, is losing money. But Adelson’s intention in launching the paper was not to gain profits, but political influence.

Adelson’s paper is edited by a former proxy to Netanyahu, Amos Regev. Under Regev, Israel Hayom is extremely supportive of the Prime Minister, constantly pushing stories that present Netanyahu and his family in a positive way. Recently, the paper is taking on an even more nationalistic editorial line.

[A more detailed post about the ties between Yisrael Hayom and Netanyahu can be found here.]

Yisrael Hayom is very hostile to the Palestinians; it tends to emphasize security threats and to present a favorable coverage of some of the new Knesset bills which are aimed against the Arab minority, Arabs members of Knesset and leftwing NGO’s (though one could find in it from time to time an occasional op-ed expressing different views).

Yisrael Hayom is supportive of the State Prosecution and the Supreme Court, but only on corruption issues, not civil rights ones.

Yisrael Hayom doesn’t have its own publishing house, so the paper has outsourced its printing and distribution to Haaretz. There are rumors that this move saved Haaretz from bankruptcy.

The bottom line for Yisrael Hayom: Conservative on security, diplomacy and civil rights; highly supportive of Netanyahu.

——————————

Maariv

Market Share (June 2010): 12.5 percent on weekdays, 16.1 on weekends.

Internet site: nrg (Hebrew only).

Politics: for years, Maariv was Yedioth’s greatest enemy (when I moved from Ynet to Maariv in 2003, I was told by one of the senior editors that I would never write for Yedioth again), but now both papers join hands in the battle against Yisrael Hayom.

Maariv ran into financial difficulties more than six years ago, and since then it has been changing its editors and CEO’s frequently. A new team of editors (Yoav Zur and Yoav Golan), and a new co-publisher (businessman Zachi Rachiv) seem to have stabilized the paper a bit recently.

Under its new editors, Maariv has taken a sharp turn to the right. The paper’s subtle criticism of Netanyahu could be a bit misleading. Maariv keeps a very nationalistic and conservative line. It was Maariv that launched the campaign against the New Israel Fund by publishing the Im Tirzu reports. The paper is extremely hostile to the Arab population and to human rights organizations, and recently, it shows a hospitable attitude to the settlement project (a recent double spread all but invited people to live in Tapuach, a settlement formally known as the stronghold of Kahane supporters). Among Israeli papers, Maariv is the most supportive of Avigdor Lieberman’s policies, and it usually presents a somewhat favorable coverage of the bills Israel Beitenu is trying to pass in the Knesset.

Rumors have it that it was a conscious decision by Maariv’s editors and managing board to take an editorial line that would exploit the current nationalistic trends in the Israeli society. The promotion of conservative contributors such as Kalman Livskind and Ben-Dror Yemini support this theory. Yemini is known for his campaigning against “lefty” influence in the Israel academia and media. He has repeatedly called to hold state funds from critical movies and from artists and professors who are “anti-Israeli”. Last week he published a double spread attacking Haaretz journalist Gidon Levi for an interview he gave to the Independent.

The bottom line for Maariv: Highly conservative on security; anti-civil rights, anti-Supreme Court; slightly critical of Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

——————————

Haaretz

Market Share (June 2010): 6.4 percent on weekdays, 7.4 on weekends.

Internet site: Haaretz (English site here).

Politics: Haaretz was Israel’s liberal paper for many years, and one could claim that it’s the only paper committed to supporting civil rights and promoting democratic values. By Israeli standards, Haaretz is very critical of the IDF, thought in the past few years the paper was criticized for pushing Palestinians’ civil right issues into its back pages. Many leftwing activists and politicians are also dismayed by the liberal line Haaretz tends to take on economical issues.

Haaretz’s editorial line is very critical of Netanyahu and Lieberman, though some important contributors, such as Ari Shavit and Yoel Marcus are less clear on the issue. Haaretz journalist Amira Hass is especially known for her work on Palestinian rights issues.

Haaretz’ circulation is not substantial – it’s almost similar to that of the unimportant free tabloid Israel Post – but it is widely read and discussed by public opinion makers, politicians, diplomats and the international press, so it has a more substantial weight than its numbers. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that very few Israelis actually read Haaretz.

The bottom line for Haaretz: liberal on security, civil rights and economy; supportive of the Supreme Court; very critical of Netanyahu’s government.

———————————

(*) Maariv and Israel Hayom are the only daily papers in Israel to disclose their circulation figures. The common way to measure papers’ share of the market – and the one used to determine advertising prices – is through the TGI poll, conducted twice a year by the independent company TNS-Telegal. The figures in this post relate to the June 2010 poll.

For daily updates on the leading stories in the Israel Hebrew press, check out the daily media roundup on +972 magazine.


Israeli tabloids urging NIF to ditch Palestinian and Lefty NGOs

Posted: September 20th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Israeli Tabloids Maariv and Israel Hayom, which led the attack on the New Israel Fund in recent months, celebrated yesterday what they believe is a change in the NIF policy regarding its support for leftwing organizations.

A page 4 story in Maariv, written by the paper’s reporter in New York, Tzah Yoked, has declared that “from now on, organizations that reject the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in Israel will no longer be eligible to receive money from the New Israel Fund.”

The story repeated some of the misleading information Maariv published in the past, claiming that NIF-backed organizations “served as the legal basis for the Goldstone report.” It concluded that:

The change [in NIF guidelines], it should be underscored, is more than merely cosmetic. This is a change that will oblige the New Israel Fund to reassess longstanding relationships it has had with organizations that until now had enjoyed its financial support, despite the fact that they explicitly advocated the establishment of a bi-national state and rejected the Jewish nature of the State of Israel.

Ben Dror Yemini, a conservative writer for Maariv and one of the leaders of the campaign against the NIF wrote that:

If the New Israel Fund truly does change the criteria for funding—it will be deserving of all praise. Rumors about that have been circulating for a long time.

Yemini also called the NIF to immediately stop supporting Adalah and the Women Coalition for Peace in order to show that it did change its ways.

In the tabloid Israel Hayom, senior columnist Dan Margalit accused NIF of flip-flopping, claiming that by clarifying that it would continue supporting left wing organizations, the NIF “ruined the correction” [of its wrongful policy], after “yesterday it seemed that the New Israel Fund had turned an attentive ear [to the criticism against it].”

It seems that the confusion over the NIF’s intentions got the progressive left worried as well. Blogger Richard Silverstein wrote that:

This is my lowest moment in an ambivalent relationship with NIF.  I cannot in good conscience support its work when it turns it back on its Palestinian grantees and an entire Palestinian NGO community.  I would urge these grantees to unite and protest this terrible formulation of the guidelines.  I can’t help but think if most of the Palestinian and even perhaps a few Jewish grantees refuse to apply for funding that this will send a shock through the system.

Silverstein also urged his readers to withdraw their support from the NIF until it changed its guidelines.

I don’t agree with Richard on this one. The NIF never backed from its support of Palestinians NGOs. In fact, it actually re-affirmed its commitment to them. As I wrote in an answer for Richard’s comment on my blog, I think we should give the NIF people more credit, and judge them according to their actions, not (only) their words.

I cannot overstate the importance of the NIF for those who still believe that the work of civil society organizations matters. The battle here is much larger than the argument over the new guidelines or the misquotation of someone. This is the front line of a war on the future of democracy in Israel. The NIF is under tremendous pressure these days, and so far they have dealt with it honorably. So though I have my own issues with some of the NIF’s statements and actions, I would wait a bit before I join those casting stones at it (even when it’s done for the best intentions).

————————–

Didi Remez has contributed for this post.


Adelson answers critics: Israel Hayom is “fair and balanced”

Posted: December 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: media, The Right | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

israel hayom

Israel Hayom, the free rightwing tabloid which has become second only to Yedioth Ahronoth in circulation, has launched its counter attack on the MKs and newspapers publishers which have been trying to pass the “journalism law” in the Knesset. If approved, this bill will allow only Israeli citizens to publish daily newspapers. Israel Hayom is owned by the gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the richest Jew in the world, who is known for his conservative views and his close friendship with PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

In an interview to Jacob Berkman at JTA, Adelson called Arnon Moses, the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, “the most powerful man in the State of Israel” and blamed him for attempting to block Israel Hayom.

Adelson said that Israel Hayom is not endorsing or supporting Netanyahu specifically (Adelson reveled that some of this criticism actually gets to him when he used the nickname the paper got in Israel, Bibi-ton), and that by publishing the paper he wasn’t trying to involve himself in Israeli politics, but rather give the Israelis a “fair and balanced” newspaper.

JTA: Your critics say that your involvement has been or could be detrimental to democracy in Israel. How do you answer those critics?

Adelson: Who are you talking to? J Street? What I am doing is detrimental to the State of Israel? I would like to know what they are doing that is positive for the State of Israel. What do they view as positive and negative?

You were also close at one time with Ehud Olmert, but you broke with him over ideological differences (namely Olmert’s readiness to accept a two-state solution). Prime Minister Netanyahu has publicly voiced support for a two-state solution.

What are you trying to figure out?

Do you still stand behind Netanyahu now that he has come out in favor of a two-state solution?

I am not against a two-state solution if it is on the right terms. But I don’t think the right terms will ever be achieved.

In Israel, your political involvement is well known …

What political involvement? I am not involved politically in Israel. Period. And everybody thinks I started the newspaper Israel Hayom purely to benefit Bibi. Nothing could be further from the truth. I started the newspaper to give Israel, Israelis, a fair and balanced view of the news and the views. That’s all. It is not “Bibi-ton.” It is not a newspaper started for and operated for Bibi. And this is the propaganda of our competitors to say to their customers, “Don’t take Israel Hayom seriously because all it is a promotion for Bibi. …”

All it is just competitive propaganda. I am not involved politically whatsoever.

So why do you think people outside of the newspaper business have latched onto this idea?

Because they read it in Yedioth and Maariv. Because [Arnon] Mozes, the publisher of Yedioth, is the most powerful man in the State of Israel and all he wants is to maintain his power, and he manipulates the government.

The truth is, of course, that Israel Hayom is “fair and balanced” exactly as the news network that invented this phrased (I wrote more about this here). Ofer Nimrodi, publisher of the tabloid Maariv – which also took a mostly rightwing approach in recent years – said in a recent interview that during business negotiations with Adelson, the American billionaire accused him that his paper “is not patriotic enough.” Read the rest of this entry »


Fire Ambassador Oren

Posted: December 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, believes that supporting a two states solution and a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, or opposing the war in Gaza, are illegitimate positions, which open the door for no less than the distraction of Israel. J street, the pro-peace lobbing group which advocates such ideas, is in Oren’s view “a unique problem”.

Forward reports:

Addressing a breakfast session at the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s biennial convention December 7, Ambassador Michael Oren described J Street as “a unique problem in that it not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government, it opposes all policies of all Israeli governments. It’s significantly out of the mainstream.”

After a speech that touched on the spiritual basis for and the threats to the state of Israel, Oren issued an unscripted condemnation of J Street.

“This is not a matter of settlements here [or] there. We understand there are differences of opinion,” Oren said. “But when it comes to the survival of the Jewish state, there should be no differences of opinion. You are fooling around with the lives of 7 million people. This is no joke.”

If I were one of Meretz or Labor’s member, or even Kadima’s, this would have been enough for me to demand for Dr. Oren to be sent back to Jerusalem. These parties hold some of J Street’s views (in Meretz’s case, probably all of them), so Oren is practically accusing them of “fooling around with the lives of 7 million people”. Even if he didn’t cross the line of talking about elected members of the Knesset, he got very close to it, considering the fact that Meretz, Labor and Kadima even sent representatives to the J Street convention.

James Besser touched this point on his blog at The Jewish Week site, when he wrote that “[according to the ambassador's approach], guys like Rabin and Ariel Sharon must have been secretly anti-Israel.”

It is no surprise that Oren is turning out to be the Likud’s ambassador to Washington, rather than Israel’s. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Oren was an associate researcher on the Shalem Center, the rightwing think tank and publishing house which is financed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s close friend, gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson (who is also the publisher of the free rightwing tabloid Israel Hayon). When Netanyhau returned to the PM office, he appointed people from the Shalem Center and Israel Hayom to senior positions in his administration. These are the hardcore ideologists behind Israel’s current policies. Read the rest of this entry »


A Knesset move against Sheldon Adelson will do more harm than good

Posted: December 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: media, The Right | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The excellent Coteret blog, which futures translated articles from the Hebrew media with independent commentary, has a post dealing with the “journalism bill” in the Knesset, which is meant to block the growing influence of Israel Hayom – the rightwing daily free-paper published by gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson. According to the new bill, license to publish daily papers will be giving only to Israeli citizens (Adelson is an American).

There are rumors of extensive lobbing on this issue by the owners of the two other tabloids, Maariv and Yedioth Ahronoth, so this legislation effort actually stands a chance.

Personally, I tend to oppose the “journalism bill”, for the following reasons:

1.    It would give politicians greater control over the papers, which will now be at their mercy. Just imagining the promises made in backrooms right now on this issue makes me worried.

2.    It won’t help to ease the legitimate concerns over Israel Hayom: the proposed bill states that it will be enforced on existing papers after an adjustment period of two years. By that time, Sheldon Adelson can transfer the paper to an Israeli citizen, or even better, become one himself. On the other hand, it might harm Haaretz, who’s under joint ownership of the Shoken family and a German partner.

3.    It might actually open the door for limitations on other “foreign influences” in the public arena, and most notably, the financial support human rights and peace groups receive.

4.    Journalism as we know it is doomed. Even the Knesset can’t save it.

Basically, you have to be a bit naïve to think that any kind of legislation that protects human rights or freedom of speech will come out of the current Knesset. In that sense, the opposition party of Kadima is just as bad as the ruling Likud (it was Kadima, for example, who pushed for the creation of national biometric database). It is more likely that any legislation on these issues will be either meaningless or abused, so I rather things will be left the way they are.


Top Israeli official: “US administration at complete chaos”

Posted: July 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

cross-posted with FPW.

Israel Hayom, the free paper published by gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, quoted a “top Israeli official”, stating that:

The Americans are totally confused. Their foreign policy is collapsing. This chaos can be seen in almost any area where the administration is acting, in the diplomatic effort in our region, in the relations with Iran and in North Korea.

The paper adds that this view is shared by PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s office and the Israeli Foreign Office alike.

It should be noted that Israel Hoyom’s editorial line is known to be very supportive of Netanyahu, and the paper enjoys almost unlimited access to the PM’s people. Netanyahu’s own chief of staff, Nathan Eshel, has worked until the elections in Israel Hayom – so I believe the paper reflects the common view around the PM in saying that “the (American) administration is trying to form a regional plan – but has no idea how it is going to be done.”

What’s important here is not whether Israeli officials are right or not in thinking the administration lacks a coherent policy for the region (it’s too hard to tell at this point) – but rather the fact that the Israelis think so, and will probably behave accordingly.

In the last few weeks, it seems that the hostile atmosphere in Israel towards the new administration is playing into Netanyahu’s hands. At the moment his coalition is very stable, and it appears as though the PM believes he was able to contain the pressure from Washington. As long as the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas are not able to work some sort of a deal and form a united government, and while there is no serious peace initiative from the American side, the Israeli government will not grant the administration with any more concessions.

The talks between Israeli officials and the special envoy George Mitchell regarding the settlements go on and on – and can continue forever, for all the Israelis care. It the administration doesn’t want to lose the momentum from Obama’s speech in Cairo, it’s time to make the next move.


Netanyahu’s Daily Paper, Courtesy of the Richest Jew on Earth

Posted: April 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: media, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

israel-hayom

Talking to none-Israeli friends, I am often asked about the political affiliation of Israeli publications, or of certain reporters. So I have decided to dedicate a few posts to the Hebrew media, with an emphasis on the political role it plays (I don’t know the Israeli Media in Arabic and Russian well enough to comment on it).

I will start with a new and unique phenomena: A paper that was established to promote the interests of a specific politician, one Benjamin Netanyahu.

There are other major papers in the West which are known to support political parties or a certain ideology – but I don’t know of any paper that was launched with the intent to gain political influence, to promote one persons’ campaign to power, and doesn’t even attempt to make profit.

Israel Hayom is a free daily tabloid in Hebrew, established in 2008. Its Publisher is the American multi billionaire Sheldon Adelson, “the richest Jew on earth”, who made his fortune in the Casino business in Las Vegas and Macao. The paper has a circulation of 255,000 copies on weekdays, and currently has no Weekend edition. According to the January 2009 TGI poll, Israel Hayom is read by 23.2 percent of the Jewish public, which makes it second only to the tabloid “Yedioth Ahronoth”. The paper’s chief editor is Amos Regev. Israel Hayom has a web site in Hebrew that presents the paper’s printed edition in PDF format.

Sheldon Adelson, the owner on Israel Hayom (the name means “Israel Today” in Hebrew) is a known supporter of the Republican Party, George W Bush and Benjamin Netanyahu. Adelson never hid his discontent with the Israeli media, which, he often claimed, is biased to the left and not appreciative enough towards Netanyahu.
Read the rest of this entry »