Sunday, June 21, 1998

The Bastardization of Netanyahu

A frequent topic of discussion lately, especially among visitors speaking with us in Hebron, is the following question: Are we better off bringing down the government and suffering a possible return of the left, led by Sarid, Balin etc.; or, should we suffer Netanyahu's continued rule, come what may, because we don't have any choice?
The two sides of the coin are fairly well spelled out. If Netanyahu pulls out of additional areas in Yesha, and ever perhaps the Jordan Valley, (as has been rumored), there is absolutely nothing to do, because he has no choice, the Americans are pressuring and Barak would give them more, - or - this isn't what he was elected to do - he is destroying the Land of Israel - we cannot absolve him of such a sin and let him continue on his merry way.
The truth is that when each one of these conversations began I would take a deep breath, sigh a few times, and then nod in agreement with whatever was said to me - because both opinions had something going for them. People tend to have very short memories: the four years of Rabin-Peres, with all they encompassed is still much too fresh in my memory to desire an instant replay. The numbers of people killed in terrorist attacks without any government response, the initiation of Oslo - etc. etc. - It isn't an era in history any of us would like to live through again. If we bring down the Netanyahu government and head for early elections, well, the last election was pretty close - who knows what will happen. The last time we brought down a government we lost the gamble. So is it worth taking almost two years away from the present regime, like them or not?
On the other hand, if he continue on the course that he has seemingly set out for himself, including massive land withdrawals, without getting anything in return (as Oslo has been since its inception) what real difference is there between the Prime Minister and Barak. This man is doing as much damage, if not more, than a Labor-led coalition. People on the right still have a major psychological problem showing true opposition to a Likud-led government, with all of "our" people participating in the cabinet.
So, what do we do?
Until the end of last week I really didn't know, even though I had my leanings. Now, the questions have been blown away, in one swift swoop.
The reason is very simple. It is called Arutz 7.
It must be very difficult for most of you, not living in Israel, to really appreciate what Arutz 7 is. Let me try to briefly explain. Broadcast media in Israel - both television and radio, is State operated. Television, until a short time ago, consisted on one government-run channel. Recently a second one was added. It is private. It is one of the only privately run media outlets (excepting newspapers) in the country. All radio is government operated. Radio news, called Kol Yisrael - the Voice of Israel - is official State news. It is, as most of you are aware, monopolized by the Israeli left, and is about as biased as can be imagined. I'll give you one small example.
The latest Israeli crisis involves last week's cabinet meeting, when, during a report being given by the outgoing Commander-in-Chief Amnon Lipkin Shachak, Netanyahu broke in and asked him to skip a particular item, for reasons which aren't clear. The Kol Yisrael military correspondent is a woman named Carmela Menashe. (The word is that she got the job because her ex-husband works for Israeli intelligence.) In any case, last week, she gave an account of why the C-I-C was so badly insulted, and how there is not any precedent to a PM's request to stop a report in the middle of it. She also gave Shachak's account of what was being discussed.
Following her account, another reporter, Yoni ben Menachem, began an account of the Prime Minister's side of things, which are somewhat different from Shachak's. At that point, Carmela Menashe broke into his account and started saying, "but there are protocols - there are protocols, which don’t jibe with Netanyahu's account." She talked for quite a while, in an attempt to shut up another Kol Yisrael reporter who was trying to give the other side of the story. Only after some time was the other reporter 'allowed' to open his mouth and give his report.
This is the way it is - until Arutz 7.
Arutz 7 is not licensed by the government, as are the other stations. It isn't licensed because the government won't license it. Israeli law does not allow for private radio stations. So the broadcasting is done from a ship, off the Israeli coast, in international waters. That way they aren't breaking the law. There are studios in Israel (if you consider 'Yesha' Israel) but the broadcasting is from the ship.
Arutz 7 is a 'religious' station. It plays Hassidic songs and not the yucky stuff many of us refer to as 'garbage.' They only play Hebrew songs, and not English varieties. (A few months ago the Israeli rock station Reset Gimel also started playing only Israeli music, because of Arutz 7's popularity. According to statistics between 20-30% of the Israeli radio audience listens to Arutz 7.) Arutz 7 also has radio Torah classes. It also has its own news department. And Arutz 7 news is slightly different from that of Kol Yisrael, to say the least.
Arutz 7 also provides us with a way to express ourselves, those of us who don't buy what the left tries to sell us. In short, Arutz 7 is a media tool which is unlike any other in Israel. It tells the truth.
The Rabin-Peres objected to Arutz 7, and at one point Shulamit Aloni confiscated broadcasting transmitters. But even the left knew better than to try and actually close Arutz 7. They all remembered Abbie Natan's Ship of Peace and Voice of Peace which broadcast for decades from outside Israeli territorial waters, just as Arutz 7 does.
But not so with Netanyahu's people. Last week the Arutz 7 offices and studios were invaded. The station was forced to stop broadcasting for a few hours. Equipment was confiscated (and later returned). Directors were questioned and ordered to appear tomorrow morning at police headquarters for more questioning. Those ordered to appear include Rabbi Zalman Melamed, Rav of Beit El, and his wife, and Ketzele - Ya'akov Katz. 
So, what's the big deal? It's very simple. Arutz 7 made Netanyahu Prime Minister. Their broadcasts, during almost four years of the Rabin-Peres catastrophe, gave light as to what was actually going on. Arutz 7 was the only media not to work against Netanyahu's candidacy. There is no doubt that without Arutz 7, Netanyahu never would have gotten close to the Prime Minister's office.
So now, what does all of this mean. Again, very simple. If Netanyahu's Minister of Internal Security, together with Netanyahu's Attorney general, can decide, with Netanyahu's OK that Arutz 7 is illegitimate, then Netanyahu is admitting that he too is illegitimate. It's like cutting off the branch of the tree that you're sitting on. If Netanyahu closes Arutz 7, his premiership is illegitimate. He shouldn't be Prime Minister. In other words, he is quite literally, a bastard.

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