Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Av 5760 - August 9, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
The Media Take Over

by N. Ze'evi

Prime Minister Ehud Barak's failure at Camp David has aroused sharp criticism from members of his own party. And the press even went as far as to quote senior ministers and party officials who were angry at the way in which Barak conducted the negotiations.

The general thrust of their complaints was that Barak simply does not understand how to conduct negotiations. Shimon Peres, they claimed, would have made a better deal, at a better price.

Those same ministers related that before Barak left for the United States, he was warned not to discuss the issue of Jerusalem, which is a stumbling block which is difficult to overcome, and that this issue should be left for a later stage, and for forthcoming years.

No such luck. "Barak doesn't listen, and if he does listen, he thinks he knows best. He simply makes us feel hopeless," said one senior minister.

At the same time, those journalists who are not subservient to the government-controlled media allowed themselves to be very critical about the failure of the Prime Minister.

"Barak believes that if he is left alone, to do it himself, he will end a hundred-year-old feud, in a week," wrote one of the political commentators.

His colleague added: "Barak will be judged not only for the essential positions he presented at Camp David, positions that totally exceeded what has been accepted until now as the Israeli consensus, but on the manner he chose in order to reach the summit.

"A year ago, he set out to bring peace, and the result is that he proved that peace is impossible. Barak granted the political right wing a priceless gift. He proved that, on the surface, the thesis that there is no partner to peace, and that sweeping concessions cannot satisfy the Palestinians, is true. His failure, is, to a great extent, an accomplishment for his competitors. It is doubtful if that is what he wanted to achieve, and doubtful if that is what those who elected him wanted."

The writer adds: "Barak returned to Israel to a new reality from a political and security point of view. He would like to start everything from the beginning. But over the past year, he ruined relationships, burned bridges, wasted large amounts of the credit given him. The politicians will have to decide if they want to give him another chance, or if at this festive opportunity, to break everything up, and hold new elections."

Presumably such sharp criticism will not sit well with the venerable Prime Minister. Barak knows that in a time of confusion, critical articles not only express public opinion, but also accelerate the feelings of frustration and political opposition of the public.

In such a situation, the political and governmental developments accord the media a central status, due to the opportunity to exploit them as a primary factor in the formulation of public opinion.

Indeed, Barak and his colleagues are apparently trying to lay their hands on the official media. "There has never before been such intense interference in the Broadcasting Authority," the director of Israel Radio, Amnon Nadav said during a recent meeting of the Knesset State Comptrol Committee.

The admission of the director of Kol Yisrael is considered the most significant revelation at that discussion, since we are speaking about one who feels the pressures and the interference on his very flesh.

The Broadcasting Authority therefore demanded that an investigation committee headed by a judge be established to examine the relationships between the Prime Minister's Office and the Broadcasting Authority's professional staff.

Nadav told the committee that the director general of the Prime Minister's Office Yossi Kucik, and Cabinet secretary Yitzchok Herzog were attempting to interfere in the work of the radio, and were also trying to cut short his tenure.

As expected, Kucik and Herzog rejected the claims and said that there was no attempt to interfere in the professional work of the radio.

The director general of the Broadcasting Authority, Uri Porat, also attacked Barak for not agreeing to meet with him: "During the past year attempts were made to dismiss all members of the Board of Directors of the Broadcasting Authority," he said.

"There is intense involvement in the Authority's work on the part of the Prime Minister's office, especially in the radio." He noted: "The radio has become an device which determines the national daily agenda. Therefore, political factors are trying to gain control of it for propaganda purposes, in expectation of the referendum and the elections."

For his part, the chairman of the investigating committee, MK Uzi Landau, did not accept the explanations provided by the Prime Minister's cronies.

"We haven't heard satisfactory explanations," he said. "If the facts and the accusations are proven true, then this is political corruption which borders on subversion."

The Committee discussion also brought out several other criticisms of Broadcasting Authority. Right- wing MKs complained about the fact that the opinions of the opposition are not expressed. This trend, as is known, is evident in all that pertains to the religious and chareidi sectors as well. It's safe to say that nearly anything that pertains to the Torah-observant community is portrayed in a negative and alien manner, when aired.

Obviously, the fact that the media leans hard to the left is nothing new. It has always been known that the media men in Israel don't particularly like Torah-observant Jews. The deliberation in the committee disclosed only the overt activity of the Prime Minister and his office regarding efforts to take over the official media.

Barak and the Leftists, who are apparently presumptuous enough to think that they are able usher in a new way in the State, are continuing the ill-suited way of the heads of the old Mapai. It was they who transformed the media into a party device for the left wing's political agenda and blackening the reputation of anyone who opposed them. Such dictatorial behavior, known only in the defunct Communist regimes, still exists in Israel.

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