So who's stronger, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, or "Yediot Ahronot" publisher Arnon Mozes? Bibi or Noni? Which of them pulls more strings in Israel's public life, or, to put it more cruelly, which is capable of extinguishing the power of the other?
There are many aspects to this question, but it is impossible to ignore Netanyahu's choice this morning to go head to head with Mozes. If until now it was "the media" that was the amorphous but chief enemy in the Likud's campaign, the prime minister has now narrowed it down to one main opponent: Yediot Ahronot, with all its satellites. "The time has come to put matters on the table," Netanyahu wrote on the official Facebook page of the prime minister of Israel. "In recent weeks, the attacks on me no longer appear once a day, in the morning, when Yediot Ahronot is distributed. They are published almost once an hour, sometimes every half-hour, on the YNET website (thus Netanyahu chose to write ynet, L. A.). These two platforms initiate and orchestrate ridiculous, false and tendentious smears against me and my wife as part of a media campaign to replace a Likud government with a government of the left, and to reinstate the dominance of Noni Mozes over the communications market."
Analysis of this text, unprecedented in its directness, demonstrates that for Netanyahu there is no difference between his rivals' attempts to replace him as the country's leader, and Mozes's aspiration to reign over the communications market. It is not clear where the editorial board of "Israel Today" ends and where the prime minister's bureau begins, and any threat to either is a threat to both. It is not just that Netanyahu names Mozes for the first time; he also publicly endorses Sheldon Adelson's newspaper and identifies with it unreservedly.
Elections are elections, and we shouldn't take these things at face value. Netanyahu rolled up his sleeves a day after a demonstration by Hamahane Hatzioni activists, headed by Eitan Cabel, outside the premises of Israel Today, now the prime minister's official stronghold, and a day after the Central Elections Committee was presented with a request to recognize the distribution of Israel Today as election propaganda in every way. The proximity in time between these things, reminiscent of the proximity between the passage of the Israel Today bill on first reading and the fall of the government, raises the question: whom did Netanyahu serve with his attack this morning, himself, his campaign, or perhaps his biggest patron?
The public stays in the stands
The fight between Netanyahu and Mozes is about deeper concerns. It has a business aspect, to do with the damage caused by Israel Today's entry in to the market, but above all it is about power and influence. More important to Mozes than the money is holding sway. It's certainly not a political matter of right and left, because there are people of all political persuasions among the talents at Yediot Ahronot. It's a battle that extends to all the channels of power in the country over just one thing: continued dominance.
Yediot Ahronot journalist Nahum Barnea's remark on Voice of Israel radio this morning that "it's only a newspaper, what can we really do to Netanyahu?" may have been disingenuous, but it is not completely wrong. On the one hand, it's clear what the aim is of the headlines fired off hourly by the Yediot Ahronot group's website: replacing Benjamin Netanyahu. On the other hand, as soon as they disappear from the top of the page, they also evaporate from the public agenda. Just like the headlines in Israel today. This is not the press and media of 1996; today, they have many facets, from Facebook, to Twitter, to countless networks and reports, and television channels. Reality has been taken out of the hands of those who believed they were anointed from on high to shape it. The political and media hegemonies both sense the crumbling of their main asset: the ability to define the public's order of priorities and public taste, whilst ensuring their continued existence. All that's left to them is to hammer each other, in order to put themselves back at center stage and divert public attention from any disturbance liable to undermine that. Netanyahu's public clash with Mozes serves Mozes just as much as it serves Netanyahu.
We shouldn't allow ourselves to be confused. It only seems as though the two are at war with each other. In actual fact, they are on the same side, shoulder to shoulder, in their unending struggle for legitimacy, power, and survival.
On the other side stand we, the Israeli public, always ready when there are fisticuffs to put aside everything that's really important and cheer. There, in the stands, is exactly where they want us to stay.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 9, 2015
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