A Tabloid State

Israel's future in this region depends on its resoluteness. To lose that is to lose any chance for peace.

On July 12, 2006, when the government decided to go to war, the declared aim was to bring back the two soldiers who were kidnapped to Lebanon. The Israeli tabloids supported that war because they supported the principle that we must not give in to terror. They believed that it was right to get entangled in war, because under no condition can we negotiate with a radical terror organization and accept its extortive demands. The tabloids believed that surrendering to extortion endangers Israel, to the extent that justified the sacrifice of dozens and perhaps hundreds of Israeli soldiers and civilians.

On June 26, 2007, the tabloids sang a different tune. After the release of the chilling 72-second audiotape, they advocated negotiating with the terror organization and accepting its demands. Because of a clever emotional manipulation by the enemy, they handed over their front pages to support unconditional surrender to terrorism.

True, the tabloids also published other views suggesting a more cautious and balanced approach. But the climate they created reversed the position from which they banged the drums of war only a year ago in support of the Lebanon conflict.

The tabloids' irresponsible, reckless front pages must be seen in context. One of the tabloids is in deep crisis, the other is under pressure; and both are anxiously bracing for the launch of a rich, patriotic, free newspaper, which is about to change the media landscape in Israel.

The new threat is causing a spin toward emotional journalism. It is driving even newspapers with responsible, professional standards toward more vivid pictures, fiery headlines, and transient emotional manipulation.

The problem exposed this week is not just a media one. A year after the Shalit abduction and the Second Lebanon War, Israel is facing its enemies flustered and exposed. It looks like a state without any emotional, military, or intelligence capability for dealing with the kidnappers of soldiers. It is a state with no comprehensive or consistent strategy for confronting the zealots attacking it.

A year after the trauma of the summer of 2006, Israel still has no policy, consistency, principles and spine. It is not shaping the reality of its life but fluctuating in the strong currents sweeping it along.

One must admit: the past year was a year of failure. Failure in the year since the war is no less severe than the failure in the war itself. Israel did not come to its senses, did not launch the required peace initiative, did not renew its military power to the right extent. Nor did Israel place a worthy leadership at the helm, examine all its systems, or carry out the vital reforms in government, education and national ethos.

Instead of acting like a civilized sovereign republic, Israel acted like a tabloid-state. It advanced from one photo-op to another, staggering from one spin to another, conveying lack of seriousness to its enemies and irresponsibility to its citizens. Israel was a country with no principles or memory this year. A frivolous state of vivid pictures and passing manipulations.

Israel's future in this region depends on its resoluteness. To lose that is to lose any chance for peace. Loss of resoluteness equals loss of life. A country that goes to war one summer for a principle and then abandons that same principle the following summer is a state with no resoluteness. If it continues to act as an inconsistent and irresponsible tabloid state this year too, we'll see plenty of red and bleeding tabloid front pages.