After all the ups and downs between management, workers’ unions and the Finance Ministry, it looked as if the reforms at the Israel Broadcasting Authority were finally underway.
To some degree they actually are, but now a new battle is brewing between the supporters of IBA spokeswoman Linda Bar and IBA chairman Amir Gilat.
A letter sent last Wednesday by Bar’s lawyer, Almogit Avital, to Gilat, IBA director-general Yoni Ben-Menachem and IBA plenum members seemed to indicate that Gilat has usurped his authority, and generated so much havoc in the IBA that he caused Bar to suffer a nervous breakdown.
Bar has been employed by the IBA for 22 years. A committee unanimously appointed her as spokeswoman in May 2007, after she spent two years as acting spokeswoman.
According to the letter sent by Avital, Bar put all of her professional contacts – both inside and outside the IBA – at Gilat’s disposal when he entered office, and in the beginning they had a good relationship.
But Bar quickly learned that Gilat expected her to perform tasks that were not part of her job description.
Gilat came to the IBA from academia, and he wanted Bar to use her influence with the print media to get his university colleagues’ editorials published in the Hebrew press – which was certainly not part of Bar’s job. He also asked her to settle his disputes with certain people in the building, with examples cited by the letter including a former driver and a former secretary.
Gilat also asked Bar to contact El Al to ensure that he and his significant other would be seated alongside each other on a private trip abroad, the letter said. Bar began to feel that Gilat was working against her, but did not have proof until this past March, when the IBA opened new offices and she sent out e-mailed press releases that included a photograph of Ben-Menachem.
Within minutes she received an angry phone call from one of Gilat’s aides, who berated her with abusive language because she had used a photo of Ben-Menachem in place of Gilat.
This had not been an error on her part, as it was the director-general and not the chairman who deserved the credit.
According to the letter, Gilat’s aide demanded that she get in touch with all of the newspapers and instruct them to use Gilat’s photo instead.
That was not the only occasion on which Gilat attempted to take the limelight for himself, Avital explained.
The inclusion of Gilat’s photo in many press releases had annoyed reporters who said they did not want unnecessary photos clogging their computers. Some had complained to Bar and she always provided a feasible excuse.
But after that particular incident, Gilat’s attitude towards her changed, the letter charged. Whereas he had previously consulted with her many times a day via phone, e-mail and text message, he now ignored her entirely and stopped inviting her to meetings. At the few meetings that the two of them attended, he spoke to her in a confrontational manner and deliberately humiliated her – to the extent that other people present asked what was going on.
What had happened, according to Avital, was that Gilat made every effort to neutralize Bar. At a meeting with Ben-Menachem and reporters who cover the IBA, Gilat introduced a new assistant, Tal Barnea, and said that all future media contact was to go through him. Gilat also started to deal with the media directly from his own office, ignoring the staff at the spokesman’s office. He also published reactions in the name of the IBA without consulting anyone, or coordinating with Bar or anyone else in the spokesman’s office.
Sometimes conflicting press releases were sent out from his office and the spokeswoman’s office, causing irreparable harm to the IBA.
These are just a few points in the letter’s very long list.
Bar had cultivated a good relationship with Gilat’s predecessors, as well as all the people she dealt with in a professional capacity. Despite all the intrigues that go on in the IBA, she had personally never experienced anything of this nature – which was one of the reasons she was not immune to being undermined in this fashion.
She is currently on sick leave and undergoing medical treatment.
At press time Avital had received no response from Gilat.
The Jerusalem Post contacted the IBA spokesman’s office and was told by a staffer who had been one of Bar’s longtime contacts that he was not authorized to speak about the matter. He referred her to Barnea, who insisted that the question be sent via email.
It was duly sent with a request for an urgent response, but at press time no reply had been received.