Israel's 'Fascist' Culture Minister Is but a Mouthpiece for Netanyahu

Netanyahu hasn't given up on his goal to wrest control over the new public broadcast corporation. The latest opposition to it has his fingerprints all over.

Less than a week has passed since Benjamin Netanyahu reached some sort of common ground with his finance minister, thereby ostensibly ending the furor surrounding the new public broadcast corporation. On Sunday, however, it turned out that with the prime minister, a “compromise” merely means that he’s going to continue to wage his battle by other means. His goal remains uncompromised: to threaten, sabotage, oppress and, unfortunately, to control the new corporation, which already seems doomed.
Last week Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon agreed that the new entity, the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation, would begin operation by April 1, 2017 at the latest, at which time it would replace the veteran Israel Broadcast Authority.
No sooner had the Sabbath ended did we learn of a new legislative drive by the coalition chairman, Likud Knesset Member David Bitan. Bitan proposes to cancel the plan for a new broadcast corporation and return to the good old IBA. At the same time, Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin said he would sponsor a law stipulating that the broadcast corporation would operate only out of the capital of Israel (Jerusalem). An appropriate Zionist message for the broadcast companies of our enemies.
Netanyahu’s fingerprints on all this are screamingly easy to see.
He knows a thing or two about psychological warfare. His coalition partners thwarted his plan to drag out the inauguration of the corporation’s operations until Eldad Koblenz – the man appointed in early 2015 to establish and lead the company that will replace the IBA, and its acting CEO – and Gil Omer, its chairman, quit in despair. (The new company has been established, but isn’t broadcasting yet). So Netanyahu sat back for a bit, regrouped – and sicced Bitan and Elkin on the pair.
Even if the legislative proposals don’t stand a chance, the message to Koblenz and Omer is clear: They are marked. They are in the crosshairs. The prime minister will not rest until he gets what he wants. He himself said once that anything he wants, he gets.
The lowest point in the saga of Bibi and the broadcast corporation (though further descent is certainly possible) happened at Sunday's cabinet session. The very walls must have blushed in shame upon hearing the discussion over the hypothetical political affiliation of young journalists recruited to work at the new corporation, involving the counting of heads like at a fish market of Likudniks versus Mafdalniks, and knitted skullcaps versus black ones. Or when Culture Minister Miri Regev shouted, “What, we give them money and they broadcast whatever they want? It is inconceivable that we establish a corporation that we won't control. What's the point?”
Not even the keenest of satirical critics would have had a character playing a culture minister who says such inane, contemptible things, amplifying her stereotype – which Regev claims is entirely an artifact of bigotry because she is a Mizrahi (Sephardi) woman.
By the way, for the last 15 months, the person sitting next to her at the cabinet table is another Mizrahi woman, the minister for social equality, Gila Gamliel, who demonstrates professionalism, statesmanlike behavior, equality. She has never had the same stereotypes as Regev attached to her.
Bitan, with his bill, and Regev, with her fomenting – that’s how Netanyahu operates. They are channeling him, echoing him. They are his subtext, his alter egos.
Lest there be doubt: When Bitan commented, at a meeting of the Economic Affairs Committee last week, that the Israeli press is “too free,” he was accurately reflecting the mood of his boss. When Regev suggested on Sunday that Koblenz be barred from becoming the permanent CEO, she was reflecting, exactly, what Netanyahu was telling his ministers in private conversations.
Only two Likud ministers represented a semblance of normalcy at the cabinet meeting. One was Gilad Erdan, whose idea it had been to reform public broadcasting in Israel in the first place (when serving as communications minister). He unleashed a series of sarcastic broadsides that punctured Regev’s hollow rhetoric. The other was Gila Gamliel. Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked represented the right-wing position, and Moshe Kahlon, guard-dog of democracy, was mum.

Yossi Verter

Haaretz Contributor

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Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives.

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