When examining the time and political resources put into these two events, one gets the impression that the Israeli government’s top priority is the media, followed by minor issues like American pressure and policy. The Israeli leadership, alongside the media, has succeeded in separating the wheat from the chaff and putting all its resources into the chaff. This is a skill that has never been seen before in the history of the Jewish people.
As I write these words, I am still part of the IPBC news division’s broadcasting schedule. The broadcasts were launched on Monday. In a spectacular show of cronyism and stupidity, the Israeli government managed to give the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) workers hope, and then inform them that the IBA is being shut down half an hour before the Mabat news program; to establish a broadcasting corporation and then try to shut it down; to pass a law to create another corporation while wasting hundreds of millions of shekels from the taxpayers’ money, and then give the public broadcasting 24 hours to prepare.
This bizarre story mostly affects private people like me (my wife is still convinced that a daily program in the evening—while the children are being put to bed—is indeed a left-wing conspiracy, as Coalition Chairman David Bitan defined the IPBC), not the state’s future. The IBA, which was shut down after countless discussions and decisions, and the corporations that were launched this week are part of the changes in the Israeli media. The odd way in which this is happening is part of shallow and corrupt cronyism, nothing more.
With all due respect to my own profession, the State of Israel’s strength does not depend upon the nature and managers of public broadcasting. That is both the truth and the problem. Everything that happened around the IPBC over the past year is nonsense. It’s a story of people and the way they are treated, obsession, zigzagging and political activists who can no longer tell the difference between the chicken and the egg. They put everything in the pot and call it shakshuka. That’s what happens when power goes to one’s head. There wasn’t, and won’t be, a shred of ideology in the obsession over the IPBC. There is no one in the Likud party, including Miri Regev and Tzachi Hanegbi—who have turned into chief nodding ministers—who knows the exact reason for this farce.
If only there was a clear purpose behind the mess: To create an Israeli Fox News channel, to open the market to competition or to adopt a libertarian approach that says there is no need for public broadcasting. Each of these goals is worthy of discussion, but here there was nothing. There was nothing in the studios where the prime minister’s emissaries gave interviews on the IPBC. There was nothing in the Knesset. There was nothing in terms of results.
In Israel of 2017, there is an ideological right and there is a sociological right. There is a right with organized world views, and there is a right whose organized world view is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The IPBC interests no one, but there are those who choose to define themselves according to Netanyahu, who support him. Why? Because. They are convinced that this foolishness is a real battle against the media, that apologizing to Turkey and paying it for the terrorists it sent here was the right thing to do, just because he did it, and that saying “leftists” three times a day is a proper alternative to a right-wing policy.
Now, we should weigh the obsession with the IPBC and compare it to the attitude towards Trump’s upcoming visit, to the voices arriving from Washington that Trump—despite the declarations, the affection and the Jewish son-in-law—has chosen the Palestinian narrative that the parties can be pressured into 1967 borders. Yet the political side, which interests the ideological right and its different factions, doesn’t seem to interest many of the politicians who call themselves right-wing. That’s the absolute truth. Try to figure out what Bitan thinks about negotiations with the Palestinians. Or what Tzachi Hanegbi or Miri Regev or Miki Zohar think.
Like with the IPBC issue, there was no need to wait for the last minute with the diplomatic issue either. Waiting for the last minute before the visit is incompetence. We didn’t need three months to realize that Trump has no intention of becoming the leader of Bayit Yehudi, or to arrive at the last minute, half an hour before the visit is made public, and remember that there is a diplomatic plan. Trump is an unexplained phenomenon: While firing the FBI director (and reminding us that Israeli democracy is full of advantages), he dreams of a Nobel Peace Prize and promises a deal. It’s hard to cope with dreams and beliefs. It’s even harder when there is no response.
One of the arguments voiced by the Israeli Left is that the Right has no clear policy. It’s an argument that I see in my email inbox every Saturday. It’s convenient to think that one side—the Left—cannot fulfill the dream and that the other side has no plan. That way, everyone is in the same boat. The truth is that there are many thoughts and ideas on the table, on many tables—apart from the government table.
Our preoccupation with Yair Garbuz and the IPBC comes at the expense of having a vision. When Netanyahu talks about the two-state solution in English without believing in it, Israeli politics loses the ability to talk straight to the point—the “dugri” that once characterized Israelis. In the days of former US President Barack Obama, talk of a two-state solution contained a motive of a diplomatic maneuvering, and what we were left with was a lie that neither side believes in. Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett is saying it out loud, but he is alone in a government that sanctifies maneuvering for the sake of maneuvering.
From an ideological perspective, the State of Israel is withdrawing into a sort of Allon Plan based on Areas A and B. The interest is a diplomatic separation from the Palestinians, not a security separation. There is one enemy state in Gaza, and in the West Bank there already is a ‘state minus,’ as Netanyahu calls it, an ‘autonomy plus,’ as Bennett calls it, or any other name.