The Noni Mozes affair must be understood on the background of the plot that preceded it. Even those who cannot name one “Israeli businessman” and isn’t concerned with the relationship between money and power in Israel; even those not familiar with the guild of journalists have all internalized the message that Bibi disseminated: that the media is persecuting him and Noni Mozes is the enemy. Even those who didn’t expect to be surprised by the revelation of who the businessman is, because what do we have to do with businesspeople, must have been taken aback that the mysterious figure recorded negotiating with Netanyahu is no less than the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, Noni Mozes – the joker, the scoundrel, the disgusting con man from the drama starring Netanyahu: “The media is persecuting me.”
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Now it all becomes clear to the public that the big drama was staged by none other than the one crying of persecution. That is to say, Netanyahu benefited twice, from persecuting himself and being persecuted by himself. Netanyahu, it turns out, is the media that persecuted him.
How did we not remember what we learned from the “Godfather” movies? Those films explained well how to recognize a traitor – the one who goes the furthest out of his way to help us. The public supposedly had all the tools to conclude that the one betraying their faith was their newspaper, “the country’s newspaper.” But, like with every good detective thriller, although we know that the criminal is always the last one on the suspects’ list, we are always surprised to discover his identity. How did we not get it that Mozes was with Bibi? What is more brilliant than that? Looking back, it was so predictable.
Much has been written about the negative and tendentious coverage Yedioth Ahronoth provided the prime minister during the last election campaign. Many analyses of Netanyahu’s last victory and Trump’s victory in America drew a line between the press persecuting the candidate and their victory at the polls. Persecution only made the public feel empathy toward the candidate, they explained. Netanyahu probably understood this well before everyone else. There is no guarantee that the media persecution that brought electoral victory is not a conspiracy that he concocted with Mozes, a kind of win-win for the two of them and a kind of lose-lose for the Israeli public.
And now what is the public supposed to do, if the public cannot trust the media? At least the public knew what it was getting with Israel Hayom. It is reasonable to assume that this affair will cause a crisis of faith between the public and the press that will be very hard to recover from. One can already imagine how they will try to arrange the facts against the obvious. They will tell us that things are more complicated than they sound, that there’s nothing invalid about a newspaper publisher having a conversation with a prime minister, and that not every conversation is negotiations. They will say that the recording was with the prime minister’s knowledge, in other words the revelation is not a revelation.
They will confuse us with dates, with the sequence of events, with what happened before what, what influenced or could not have influenced what. But what does it matter anyway? Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes pulled the wool over the public’s eyes. They sold us tickets to a fixed boxing match, and split the profits. And here we all fully consciously followed the dramatic change that the Yedioth Ahronoth editorial line underwent. In front of our surprised eyes, they went from “anything but Bibi” to the “fighting the boycott” project and to adopting the Im Tirzu narrative and Ben-Dror Yemini’s rhetoric. We saw it happen before our very eyes.
We drew conclusions about changes that the Israeli public is undergoing, about a demand from below to shift rightward, about a return to patriotism. It’s all bullshit. They just wanted ratings, one at the paper and the other at the ballot box. And Israel could blow up, society could rot and violence could erupt for all they cared. Who cares, anyway?
Netanyahu’s treatment of Israel Hayom is another opportunity to be impressed by the prime minister’s integrity. Netanyahu doesn’t recoil from any means to preserve his power, and he has no problem betraying those closest to him, and even – it turns out – himself. You have to write it to believe it. Netanyahu negotiated in exchange for praise in Yedioth Ahronoth restricting and perhaps even closing down Israel Hayom, his loyal democracy dog, his shofar, his hometown paper, the Bibipaper! If I were Sara Netanyahu, I would install a rearview mirror on my shoulder.
Those around Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit were quick to say that the case is serious from a public perspective and borderline criminal. The thought that there should be an overlap between what is publicly serious and what is criminally serious sounds archaic in Israel today.
It is hard to rid the thought that perhaps, at the end of the day, the public will remain indifferent to this, too. What does it matter anymore, it will tell itself. This, of course, will be the proof that the crisis of faith between the public and the media happened long ago. The public has no expectations, and therefore is not longer disappointed. There is no limit to imagining what else we will discover. Everything is possible. According to that same logic, perhaps Raviv Drucker and Bibi, too; perhaps Abbas is his best friend; perhaps Bibi is the one who convinced the mufti.