In Newspaper War, It All Depends on Sheldon

One has to remember that there is competition here between a medium-sized tycoon, Yedioth Ahronoth's Noni Mozes, and a giant one, Sheldon Adelson. We may view it with a certain measure of concern.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Sheldon Adelson speaks at a news conference, April 12, 2012. Credit: AP

Noni Mozes, publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, is no Citizen Kane. The Citizen Cane of Orson Welles’ 1941 movie was a tycoon who wanted to amass political power with the help of his sensationalist newspapers. Mozes doesn’t want to be a politician but does want to be the power behind the politician. Such power will ensure the well-being of Yedioth, a paper that is so important to him. This all-important enterprise for him is now being threatened by another enterprise that is less important to its owner, and that is the competing newspaper Israel Hayom. That paper, which is distributed at no charge, is owned by Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the red-haired patron of a local politician. The politician is none other than our prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who says he represents the entire Jewish people.

The prospect of the harm that Israel Hayom could do to Yedioth is driving Mozes crazy, and as a result he has gone to war against the red-haired patron. The war doesn’t even tickle the patron, whose newspaper, when all is said and done, is a plaything that he created for his beneficiary’s sake. The beneficiary, the prime minister, actually is ticklish. From his standpoint, Israel Hayom is an important weapon in the war over his political future. Mozes isn’t seeing to his own political future but rather his economic one. His heavy weapon is Yedioth and the ammunition that his newspaper staff provides. They investigate and report embarrassing details that infuriate the prime minster, who, it should be remembered, represents the entire Jewish people.

Mozes’ and the red-haired man’s journalists have sharp senses. This difficult period for the newspaper business makes them sharp. They help the business to know which way the winds are blowing from their publishers’ offices. Anyone who thinks that Mozes the publisher directs his staff to sully the reputation of the prime minister is mistaken. It doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t need to issue instructions. They know to do it without be told to do so. And neither does the prime minister issue instructions to the people at Israel Hayom. No such orders are necessary because the spirits of the two commanders are gusting through the corridors of both newspapers.

The same spirit blew through the corridors of the now-defunct newspapers Davar, Haboker and Al Hamishmar 40 years ago. These newspapers were not standard-bearers for freedom of expression. They were beholden to a specific political party and that was it. Mozes and the red-haired man aren’t standard-bearers either. Freedom of expression is as interesting to them as yesterday’s weather map. When it comes down to it, Mozes wants to make money and accumulate power. The prime minister makes do with just the power, whatever it may cost. After all, it’s not his money.

The money is his patron’s, and the patron doesn’t have many demands. I imagine it went like this: He made only one small request, that was difficult to refuse. Do me a favor, he told the prime minister. Go to Congress and stick it to that black guy in the White House. The prime minister shifted uneasily in his seat. He understood the significance of the request. Are you sure? the prime minister asked. Oh yeah, the patron replied, crumpling, as if in this case, the front page of Israel Hayom. Okay, okay, the representative of the Jewish people responded, beginning to think how to get out of the pickle that the red-haired man had put him in.

Mozes, on the other hand, is lounging in his armchair. No one knows his views on the establishment of a Palestinian state, corruption or the cost of living. And they wouldn’t ask him either. Who would ask? Those who work for him? Those who may do so in the future? After all, he’s a major publisher in a country where they no longer exist. If I worked for him, I wouldn’t ask him either. I know how to act when I’m in the place where I make my living. At Yedioth, I would have tread warily over respecting Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, thought twice before writing about business tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva and handled former cabinet minister Gideon Sa’ar with kid gloves. At Israel Hayom, it’s easier. If I were there, I would have written – if I weren’t embarrassed to do so - about “that erotic woman” the prime minister’s wife, Sara.

The prime minster is just following orders. The patron presumably is asking that the prime minister make the patron’s Republican friends in America happy, and he himself is fighting for his political survival in Israel. The red-haired man is sitting in Macao, tanning himself under the fluorescent lights of the casino halls. The representative of the Jewish people is sitting in Jerusalem among deposit bottles, pondering whether it’s worth trading Labor Party leader Isaac “Bougie” Herzog for Noni Mozes. The name Noni, which is short for Arnon, also sounds funny, his media consultant would say (but Bougie scores big).

“Tell me," the prime minister asks his wife, ”is it respectable for a prime minister to do battle against a businessman?"

“But it’s for Sheldon. Have you forgotten?” his mind-boggling wife responds. She’s right. How can one forget that it’s Sheldon?

One has to remember that there is competition here between a medium-sized tycoon and a giant one. We may view it with a certain measure of concern. After all, they are competing for our heads.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments