In my conversations with leaders of the Eretz Chadasha Party, they noted that it had been shut out of news coverage by most of the major Israeli media. Now I know why, at least in the case of one TV channel. Labor Party chief, Shelly Yachimovitch made a deal with Channel 2′s politics reporter Rina Matzliach: in return for the latter agreeing not to report on the Party, Yachimovitch would offer her exclusive leaks.
What makes this an even dirtier deal that what I’ve outlined above is that Matzliach said on air yesterday that the real reason she didn’t cover Eretz Chadasha was that she founded its leader, Eldad Yaniv, “untrustworthy.” Hell, if you used that rule to determine which party leaders got coverage in Israel there’d be no political coverage at all. Her claim was disingenuous. So much so, that the NGO La’Daat filed a formal press complaint against Matzliach.
Now we know that interview was a total smokescreen, and the real reason she shut the Party out was a good old fashioned back-room deal. In commerce, it would be called restraint of trade, and both of them would be hauled in for questioning. In media and politics, it’s par for the course.
In case anyone out there doubts this story, here are two of the “exclusives” Yachimovitch gave Matzliach. In one, Yachimovitch was the secret source who revealed (Hebrew) that Gen. (res.) Uri Sagi had joined Labor’s campaign as a Knesset candidate and its senior security expert (note the caption saying pirsum rishon or “Exclusive Report”). The second story conveyed a juicy scoop that Sagi was resigning because a woman complained that he’d harassed her years before when they both served in the IDF. The latter story was reported by Amit Siegal and not Matzliach, so as to cover Yachimovitch’s tracks and divert anyone attempting to trace the source of the stories. Thanks to a senior source inside the Labor party, we don’t need to. We know it.
UPDATED: Segal has tweeted calling me a “lying fantasist” without offering any substantive rebuttal of this story. In fact, he appears not to have even read this post because he claims that I said he was party to the deal with Matzliach and Yachimovich, which isn’t what I wrote. But he has done me the favor of linking to this post so his tweeps can read it too. Those charges of lying coming from him are rich since his employer, Channel 2, was forced to settle a libel suit brought against him by Hebrew University Prof. Amiram Goldblum, in which the station paid the victim for the damage to his reputation.
I’ve already reported here that sources in at least one competing party (guess which one?) originated bogus SMS messages to voters telling them polls showed Eretz Chadasha wasn’t going to pass the electoral threshold and that they shouldn’t waste their vote. Now we know the fix was in. The Labor Party is the same as any other party willing to use any and all tricks in the book to suppress votes for competitors. Yachimovitch made a pretence of representing real change as she embraced the social justice movement that’d taken to the streets of Tel Aviv two summers ago. She was supposed to be a breath of fresh air. There is indeed a smell emanating from her leadership of the campaign, but it isn’t the smell of fresh air. It’s the smell of dirty tricks politics as usual.
Some of this may be why Labor’s polling fell as the campaign continued. From a high of 20 seats it declined till it actually won 15, a distinct disappointment for those who hoped for a resurgence of the Party. This story certainly won’t burnish Yachimovitch’s leadership of the election campaign or the Party in general.
A few readers here were dubious about my claims of fraud and manipulation of the political process to subvert the electoral chances of Eretz Chadasha. Maybe they’ll want to re-evaluate that judgment now.
There may be legitimate criticisms of Eretz Chadasha and its leaders. I’m making no judgment on that issue since some I know have expressed such views. But the place for those criticisms and that debate about the Party is in public forums and the media. Such collusion by Matzliach and Yachimovitch cheapens what little is left of Israeli democracy. In this case, a reporter and politician have engaged in an unholy pact to advance their own interests at the expense of the overall political system.