The Jerusalem Post
Shutting Army Radio
Army Radio should not be shut down – but should be permanently removed from the IDF. The reasons are simple. Firstly, the radio does not serve a military purpose and the IDF needs to remain focused on what its main role is – preparing Israel for war and confronting the threats and challenges that loom on the horizon. This was understood by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi as well as by his predecessor Gadi Eisenkot, who initiated the review process that culminated in Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s decision to shut the station down.
Army Radio – or as it is referred to in Hebrew – began broadcasting in 1950. Its primary aims, as articulated by David Ben-Gurion, were to serve the country’s defense and security needs as an effective means of communication to the reserve and regular army, and also as a way to teach the youth and new immigrants about Israel and the Hebrew language. That is no longer needed.
The second reason to remove the station from the IDF is because Army Radio and the soldiers who serve there have become political pawns in a battle that has nothing to do with the military and, if anything, harms the IDF.
While it is okay to have different broadcasters from across the political spectrum – say, for example, Rino Tzror on the Left and Yaakov Bardugo on the Right – some have crossed into territory that goes far beyond what a radio broadcaster should be saying – especially one that works in an IDF unit.
Bardugo, for example, does not hide his fervent support of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. While that is fine, what is not is the vulgar way he speaks about other elected officials. When Avi Nissenkorn was justice minister, for example, Bardugo refused to call him by his ministerial title, referring to him only as “the union leader” in the Justice Ministry. Current Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar is referred to as “Gideon” – no last name and no title.
The vulgarity is not saved for just one side of the political spectrum. In January 2020, ahead of the third round of elections, Bardugo called then-transportation minister Bezalel Smotrich “pathetic.” He speaks this way to politicians, rabbis and just about anyone else who comes on the 5 to 6:30 p.m. daily show.
The issue with Bardugo is not one of Right vs. Left: It is about how a broadcaster on an army-funded channel should be speaking to politicians and government officials, and about the democratic institutions that serve as the foundation of our democracy.
When he attacks the judiciary and the prosecution – over Netanyahu’s trial of course – how exactly does that help the IDF combat Hamas or stop Iranian entrenchment in Syria? When he throws one insult after another at politicians like Sa’ar, does that help boost IDF morale ahead of future conflicts?
While we support Gantz’s decision to stop the funding of Army Radio from within the Defense Ministry, a solution should be found to allow it to continue operating. It is one of the most popular radio channels in the country and has a relatively modest operating budget of approximately NIS 50 million.
Like defense companies that have been sold over the years by the Defense Ministry – Elbit, for example, purchased Israel Military Industries for $500 million in 2018 – Army Radio can also be sold off to a private individual or an existing new organization.
It has a brand, a following and a talented staff. Soldiers will be replaced with real broadcast journalists and will need to be paid accordingly. The new owner will then be able to determine the business model and how to manage the radio station – no differently than any other newspaper, website, TV news station or private radio station that currently operates in the country.
Supporters of keeping Army Radio in the IDF make the argument that the state funds Kan and that there is no reason the army cannot fund Army Radio. The difference is that this is the IDF, which needs to remain above all politics. Let Army Radio keep Bardugo and Tzror but just take them out of the IDF: They do not belong there. it