Had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu been asked to describe his vision of the ideal gift, to explain how he pictures his deepest desire in the wee hours of the night, when the screaming at his official residence has died down and blessed quiet reigns, he apparently would have said, “Exactly what’s happening now, down to the last sweet detail”: the media excoriating itself, Yedioth Ahronoth’s top journalist publishing an apologetic op-ed, emotional eulogies for the profession, hair-raising stories about blacklists and tailoring stories to a politician’s exact dimensions just like a high-fashion shop would. This is the complete realization of his dreams.
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The unacceptable understandings that the prime minister and the publisher of Yedioth – which until recently was the dominant newspaper in the market – reportedly tried to shed additional light on the fact that it’s no longer possible to separate Netanyahu from the media. The two exist in a relationship that in biology would be called parasitism, like a virus in a cell, or a flea that digs itself into a dog’s fur.
Instead of letting the media mediate reality, Netanyahu has shaped the media’s image in the public’s eyes so as to cast doubt on reality as mediated by the media, especially when it comes to himself and his family. Anyone who can manage to distinguish between the endless reflections in the hall of mirrors that Netanyahu has created will have taken a first step toward rescuing the real from a reality in which everything has been called into question.
We must remember that if Noni Mozes is a thuggish press baron, then Netanyahu is emperor of the information galaxy. The media isn’t a single, uniform object, but a huge, many-branched system composed of diverse organizations that differ in their moral and political viewpoints, their goals and their intentions. None of them is wholly righteous or wholly mistaken.
But merging them into a single conceptual whole is a supreme interest for absolute rulers like Netanyahu. He is doing to “the media” what he did to the Oslo Accords, the Rabin government and the peace camp: turning them into an icon of hate, a knife in the nation’s back.
Therefore, the statements being made by journalists close to the prime minister’s court, to which it’s usually advisable to refrain from listening too often, this time deserve in-depth attention. The poetic tweets on right-wing activist Shimon Riklin’s Twitter account exemplify this. “Anyone who’s familiar with the details knows: Netanyahu was the last obstacle to Israel becoming a dictatorship,” he wrote.
We’ll hear a lot of this sort of spin in the coming days, and I’ll wager it will catch on strongly. The widespread claim – that even if the investigation doesn’t lead to an indictment, the public fallout will be enormous – is mistaken and misleading. Without an indictment, this affair is liable – though we still don’t know how; author Netanyahu is still toiling over the twists and turns of the plot – to become the dramatic climax of a story about the persecution of a prime minister who prevented his country from becoming a dictatorship ruled by a ruthless media baron who sought to get rid of a commercial rival.
Therefore, we mustn’t discount the possibility that this battle will end with Netanyahu winning the jackpot: the destruction of Mozes and his businesses, and also the destruction of the last vestige of public trust in the media. And that’s why his immediate ouster from his role as communications minister is essential not only from a symbolic standpoint, but also for survival’s sake.
Governments are replaced via the ballot box, the prime minister said, hinting at an attempted putsch by the media. But the latest revelations show that politicians actually obtain power through shady deals, just like the lowliest drug dealer.