How a Radio Station Coarsely and Blatantly Aligned Itself With Netanyahu's Party

Army Radio's falling into line behind its political patrons reflects the built-in problem of a military radio station in Israeli democracy.

Ariel Schalit

Early this week Army Radio broadcaster Razi Barkai angered the parents of fallen IDF soldiers from Operation Protective Edge in Gaza - Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. He wondered during the course of the broadcast whether there was a difference between the feelings of Israeli and Palestinian parents whose children’s bodies have not yet been handed over to the family for burial, and are being held by the other side - Hamas and the Israeli government. Barkai did not make sure to say “lehavdil” (an expression used to differentiate between two very different situations) during the broadcast, and refrained from an unequivocal apology following it.

As a result of the comparison Barkai and the radio station were harshly criticized. Although the chief of Army Radio, Yaron Dekel, gave Barkai partial support (“a veteran and professional broadcaster, who should not be attacked because of an unsuccessful choice of words”), but also criticized him: “A comparison between bereaved parents and the parent of evil murderers - is painful and infuriating, and is uncalled for.”

But if it seemed as though the specific storm would pass and be forgotten, on Thursday the price that is paid nowadays for statements that do not align themselves with the national bon-ton became clear: Barkai discovered that his program “Ma Boer” would be shortened from two hours to only one, and that the second hour would be presented by right-wing journalist Erel Segal.

Bringing in Segal - who among other things presents a program on Galey Israel radio and the program “The Patriots” on TV’s Channel 20 - is part of Dekel’s attempt to placate his employers. Dekel will soon be concluding a four-year tenure granted to him by previous Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The present defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, was pleased with Dekel and is willing to add a fifth year. But Benjamin Netanyahu, who is the communications minister and the prime minister, is opposed. Maybe now, when in addition to Segal the political pundit identified with Likud, Yaakov Bardugo, will be joining Yaron Vilensky on the 5 P.M. news magazine - Netanyahu will be placated and will allow Dekel to fulfill his ambitions.

The coarse and blatant manner in which Army Radio is aligning itself with its political patrons reflects the built-in problem of a military radio station in Israeli democracy. Barkai is only a small part of a puzzle whose significance is greater: Army Radio is today another media outlet in the arsenal of the Likud government.