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Netanyahu’s alternative news: We remain in the midst of the never-ending IBC crisis. There are growing doubts hovering over the agreement between the PM and Kahlon about the future of public broadcasting. So, it is hardly surprising that Netanyahu launched yet another attack on Israeli media yesterday, dubbing it as “the gloom industry.” Speaking at a pre-Pesach toast for the employees of the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu laid out his discontent with the picture the media paints and presents to the public. “I wish there was more competition, more variety, more pluralism. But I will tell you what I see in the media, which is not varied enough – it does not reflect the feelings of the public. Where they see unemployment – I see full employment, where they see a devastated economy, I see a flourishing economy, where they see traffic jams, I can see interchanges, trains, bridges. This is what I see. They see the country collapsing, I see Israel as a rising power in the world.” Traffic jams are one of the biggest annoyances these days in Israel, especially when people take the week off before Passover and get stuck on the roads en route to attractions, and Bibi’s analogy immediately made the twitterati go berserk. It even got Netanyahu on the front page of the Yedioth Aharonothdaily. The headline was Bibi’s quote “they see traffic jams, i see interchanges,” accompanied by a split photo of his speech at 3 PM and the 7 PM traffic jams on the Ayalon highway through Tel Aviv, and complaints from drivers about the tiring standstill.
Bibi wasn’t the only one holding a pre-Pesach toast last night. It’s that time of the year again, when politicians make the rounds and meet with their constituents for pre-holiday gatherings and rallies. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, once Bibi’s BFF but these days far from it, held a large Kulanu party convention in Holon and continued his attacks on the PM. “The time has come for leaders who are not afraid to arise here! It’s the time for leaders who fight for those who should be fought for,” Kahlon said, continuing an earlier speech yesterday in which he also attacked Netanyahu. Kahlon also promised that in the coming days he will announce a tax reduction and an increase to the allowances paid to disabled citizens, raising some speculation that he is already planning what is called “election economics.”
Kahlon’s cold shoulder: Kahlon and Netanyahu are set to appear together this evening at an event in the town of Or Yehuda. This is the latest in a series of joint appearances, which were mainly pushed by the PM’s office. Netanyahu has been asking to join numerous launches Kahlon has been holding in which he announces new construction and planning, and Kahlon doesn’t like it. He has complained behind closed doors and even on the record that Netanyahu “only appears when there are achievements and he disappears when things go wrong.” Yesterday, in Bet Shemesh, Kahlon gave the premier a clear cut cold shoulder. But Netanyahu doesn’t mind, apparently, and according to one of his aides, “BB understands that Kahlon feels like he lost many points in the IBC crisis and can live with his cross faces.”
Tomorrow, the IBC crisis will reach the Knesset, which is set to convene for a special recess session originally dedicated to approving a reformation of the planning and construction process. But the focus will be on a special plenum discussion, convened by Meretz and the Zionist Union who gathered the required 25 signatures, dedicated to the “Prime Minister’s attempts to take over the media.” Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party refused to join their fellow opposition parties, prompting criticism, but they rejected it completely, stating they have a “clear and unequivocal position on the IBC issue. We don’t understand the desperate attempts of some of the opposition members to get half a headline to show the public they are doing something. We don’t need to participate in this masquerade.”
Sa’ar is making a comeback: Netanyahu’s latest headache is the return of his archrival, Gideon Sa’ar, to politics. In case you forgot, Sa’ar, a former education and interior minister from the Likud, consistently held high public approval ratings and was seen by many as Netanyahu’s heir apparent, leading the prime minister to do all he can to try to tear Sa’ar down. So, in September 2014, Sa’ar decided to take a break from politics to dedicate time to his family.
For someone who took a break from politics over frustration with Netanyahu – though he would never openly admit as much – Sa’ar was very positive about the prime minister in his comeback speech at a Likud chapter in Akko. “I want to praise Prime Minister Netanyahu for protecting Israel’s interests during eight tough years,” Sa’ar said, referring to Obama’s presidency. However, Sa’ar, who in addition to hanging out with babies David and Shira, spent the last 2.5 years at the INSS think tank in Tel Aviv, warned that “there are still dangerous plans out there to pressure Israel to return to pre-1967 lines” and called for people to “support the prime minister in standing up to that pressure.”
Sa’ar added that he hopes to “strengthen the Likud for the future and guarantee that it will also lead the country in the future,” a/k/a, the post-Netanyahu era. He plans to launch a cross-country tour of Israel where he will meet with Likud activists and others to discuss his new ideas.
There’s no Likud leadership race on the horizon, even if an election is called, because Netanyahu ran unopposed last year, and the vote was called off to save the party money. Sa’ar is still seen as a desirable option, as a Jerusalem Post poll indicated two weeks ago. Some 39% of the public saw Sa’ar as fit to be prime minister – more than three former IDF chiefs of staff: Moshe Ya’alon, Benny Gantz, and Gabi Ashkenazi. Meanwhile, some Likud central committee members began circulating a petition to hold an election – an unusual move in a party that generally reveres its leader.
By the way, the family that Sa’ar took time off to spent time with includes wife and respected IBA News anchor Geula Even. At the height of the Netanyahu-Kahlon IBA-IBC crisis, the IBC announced that Even would be its nightly news anchor, a move that reportedly angered both sides of the dispute: Netanyahu, because he sees Even and Sa’ar as one and the same, and Kahlon, because he blamed IBC’s management for making it harder to end the crisis.