When Dan Margalit, the top commentator at the daily free sheet Israel Hayom, opened the newspaper on Monday morning, he was likely surprised to see that the commentary he had written the night before did not appear in its usual spot on the front page. Nor did it appear on the second page or the third. In fact, he had to rifle through the paper quite a bit to find his commentary – on page 37.
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The reason this article by Dan Margalit, a respected veteran journalist, was buried in the paper's "Siberia section" was its content. Under the headline “Superfluous frenzy surrounding Kahlon,” Margalit voiced sharp criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had suddenly tapped the popular minister to be chairman of the board of the Israel Lands Administration.
“ The announcement is flawed," wrote Margalit. "Because a prime minister does not appoint an official on behalf of a government that will be formed after the election. Also because it was slated to come into effect six months from now. If the housing shortage is so great that it is necessary to announce the appointment two days before the election – why not immediately? Why only after he returns form his trip to the United States? This is an announcement that indicates great worry in Likud circles. It will not succeed because it will be interpreted as panic, not as a solution to the price of housing. It is bad morally, because what does it say about Kahlon?”
Margalit continued his criticism of Netanyahu: “ It all happened because suddenly, in a single stroke, like the swish of a sword, a great wind of hysteria has hit the election that had appeared to be in Netanyahu’s pocket.
“ One day remains until the polls open. There will be last-minute efforts. But the Likud has to calm down. In any case, it will be larger than any other bloc and in any case such tricks add nothing; perhaps they even detract."
Margalit was interviewed Monday morning on Army Radio and was asked why his column was relegated to page 37. “This morning I saw my article – it appears word for word as I had written it, on page 37 – I don’t know why and that’s a fact. I’ve been pushed, I’ve been pushed,” Margalit responded.
Israel Hayom's headline today openly supported Netanyahu’s controversial announcement. The paper reported that “Kahlon will revolutionize housing the way he revolutionized cellular phones.”
While Margalit’s column was banished from the front page, two other columns appeared there, full of praise for Netanyahu. The first was penned by political reporter Mati Tuchfeld, appearing under the headline: “This of all things is prohibited campaigning?” [referring to the election committee's decision to prohibit the press conference from being aired]; the second piece was by economic reporter Hezi Sternlicht, headlined “Netanyahu’s smart bomb.”
It's no secret that the freebie's owner is American Jewish casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who is one of Netanyahu’s staunchest supporters. The newspaper has been called a mouthpiece for Netanyahu – something it has vehemently denied in recent years.
The paper's billboards and ad campaigns all bear its slogan – “direct and to the point.” This morning, its senior columnist discovered just how empty that motto is.