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Anatomy of a crisis – The Times of Israel

Posted: March 19, 2017 at 6:41 pm

Barely two years after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus government was formed, all the papers can talk about on Sunday morning is its apparently imminent demise. A coalition crisis is in full swing, sending Israels preeminent pundits scrambling to find people to blame and issues to make the center of the agenda. With all the attention going to the possibility of fresh elections, relatively little attention is given to the Israeli airstrike on Syria early Friday morning and the rocket fire rupturing southern Israels weekend calm.

To virtually nobodys surprise, the free daily Israel Hayom is sympathetic to Netanyahu, explaining his position on its front page that the existing public broadcaster would cost less than the proposed new one set to be rolled out. What do we need it for? Netanyahu is quoted in the papers headline, setting the tone of the rest of the article. It quotes senior Likud official Yariv Levin saying that with 30 seats, the ruling party can stick to its guns despite pressure from its coalition allies.

The paper exhibits the most balanced manner of reporting by quoting Likud ministers throughout the first five paragraphs of its main report, only getting around to the Kulanu partys counterpoint in paragraph six.

What others perceive as the premiers paranoia is what Mati Tuchfeld calls political sensors on maximum sensitivity, and when Netanyahu detects sparks of non-compliance by one of the coalition partners, he projects [the message] that the master of the house is willing to go all-in, come what may.

Its not just the broadcaster and its not just Kahlon, he writes, arguing that this whole crisis was a brilliant masterstroke by Netanyahu to keep his coalition partners in line. Its also [Jewish Home party leader] Naftali Bennett, who just a couple of days ago said that Netanyahu has neglected religious Zionism. Its also Liberman, who though he appears Netanyahus most trusted partner, nonetheless his comments about closing the yeshiva in [the West Bank settlement of] Eli sent the prime minister down a dead end.

If Israel Hayom takes the defensive stance in Netanyahus favor, Yedioth Ahronoth comes out swinging against the prime minister. It dispenses with any semblance of reportage in the opening pages, leading instead with that fearsome duo of twin op-eds by mainstay pundits Nahum Barnea and Sima Kadmon.

Like Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, Netanyahu has solidified his grip on his party in his fourth term in office but is cursed to self-destruct, Barnea expounds. The economy is strong, the country is secure, Likud is joined by right wing parties in ruling the country, and hes welcomed in Moscow, Beijing and Washington with open arms, Barnea says.

Crises like thse are born on WhatsApp and die on WhatsApp, he says. All it needs is intervention by the prime minister. Netanyahus sudden interest in the fates of Israel Broadcasting Authority workers is the most baseless crisis, Barnea says.

Netanyahu was the one who passed the bill through the Knesset to disband the corrupt, bloated and unnecessary IBA that had been under his wing for years. Kahlon stands against him not because the public broadcaster is dear to his heart or pocket, but because theres a limit to his willingness to be a mop.

Kadmon likewise calls out Netanyahu for flipflopping on the public broadcasting corporation issue, but says that the broadcaster isnt the real issue at hand at all. She charges that its his wife, Sara Netanyahu, calling the shots because of a personal dislike of certain journalists hired by the new broadcaster. Its clear to everyone close to the prime minister that something is going on when Netanyahu is susceptible to the influence of his relatives.

Ladies and gentlemen, wake up. This is your prime minister. The man making a list of critical decisions, like which response we should take against Gaza, or what to do about Irans power in Syria. Is this the man you would let make fateful decisions? Wait, would you buy a car from this man?

Haaretzs Chemi Shalev compares Netanyahu to Titus. For destroying Jerusalem? No, because Netanyahu also has a mosquito buzzing in his head driving him crazy in the form of the media, he writes. Netanyahu will found and ruin coalitions until he silences the irritating journalists, he charges.

Some analysts connect the flipflop that Netanyahu did over the weekend to his relatives waverings, he writes. Others are certain that its an initiative aimed at somehow saving him from an approaching indictment. There are still others who say that Netanyahu is simply puffing out his chest with Moshe Kahlon specifically, and his coalition partners in general, to bring them back into line, with no real intention to go to the polls.

All these things are right, he says, but they miss the point: Netanyahus treatment of the press is irrational and its eating him up inside.

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Anatomy of a crisis – The Times of Israel

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