Ne­tanyahu could yet lose his me­dia war

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ANSHEL PFEFFER

THE MOST suc­cess­ful ne­go­ti­a­tions are the ones in which no-one is clear who has come out on top. Fi­nance Min­is­ter Moshe Kahlon won last week when he got Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu to agree that the new pub­lic broad­cast­ing com­pany, Kan, would be­gin op­er­at­ing more or less on sched­ule.

Mr Ne­tanyahu won when Mr Kahlon agreed that the cor­po­ra­tion would not in­clude its planned news di­vi­sion and that the cur­rent af­fairs depart­ment would be hived off as a sep­a­rate or­gan­i­sa­tion, staffed by jour­nal­ists from the ex­ist­ing Is­rael Broad­cast­ing Au­thor­ity who were sup­posed to be out of a job at the end of this month.

Ever since the com­pro­mise was an­nounced on Thurs­day morn­ing, Mr Kahlon has been un­der at­tack by op­po­si­tion politi­cians and jour­nal­ists for hav­ing be­trayed the free press.

As far as Mr Kahlon is con­cerned, the fu­ture of pub­lic broad­cast­ing is a mi­nor is­sue; he needs an­other two years to prove he can bring down Is­rael’s spi­ralling house prices. He saved face and averted an early elec­tion. Win-win.

A source close to Mr Ne­tanyahu in­sisted this week that the prime min­is­ter had also won. “We pre­vented yet an­other nepo­tist and cor­rupt news chan­nel from com­ing into ex­is­tence,” he said. Which is one way of look­ing at it. Some se­nior Likud min­is­ters, on the other hand, be­lieve Mr Ne­tanyahu was ac­tu­ally in­ter­ested in early elec­tions. They think he be­lieved he would win yet an­other man­date be­fore his many ri­vals could get their act to­gether — and be­fore one of the cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions against him yielded an in­dict­ment. If they are right, the prime min­is­ter has failed and is still stuck in a govern­ment filled with his en­e­mies.

Where does the Is­raeli me­dia stand? There were hopes that Kan’s news di­vi­sion, which un­der the new broad­cast­ing law was al­lowed both free­dom from po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence and se­cure fund­ing, would be a valu­able ad­di­tion to the Is­raeli jour­nal­ism.

In­stead, the mori­bund IBA, long on life-sup­port, will be given a new lease of life in a frame­work which is still not clear. It is too early to say whether the Is­raeli press has lost. Kan’s news di­vi­sion has al­ready hired dozens of tal­ented jour­nal­ists, some of whom may still find their way in to the old­new news cor­po­ra­tion.

Is­raeli jour­nal­ists have an ad­ver­sar­ial ethos. Twenty years ago, it was the IBA’s Chan­nel One which broke the Bar-On-He­bron bribery case which nearly brought down Prime Min­is­ter Ne­tanyahu in the first year of his first term. Last week it was Mr Ne­tanyahu who gave the same news depart­ment the kiss of life. He ex­pects it to be a craven and grate­ful shadow of its for­mer self. But you can never trust an Is­raeli jour­nal­ist not to bite the hand that feeds him.


Is­raeli min­is­ter of fi­nance Moshe Kahlon

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