Is media serious business?
Is it at the core of our civilization?
Let's not exaggerate.
It's also a source of fun, tending toward the slapstick, as shown by what follows from the peak of Israeli and American media.
First the Israeli slapstick.
At the focus, once again, is Sara Netanyahu.
Criminal charges are being considered.
There is also a bit of confusion involving the Attorney General and the State Comptroller. The first makes decisions about what to prosecute, and the second is the equivalent of the GAO.
It's not clear if Sara's latest faux pas was appropriately reported and dealt with, or withheld in order to avoid embarrassing the PM during the election campaign.
The story deals with returnable plastic bottles, each worth about 0.30 NIS, or about $ 0.08.
The first lady allegedly asked her staff (who we've heard in numerous complaints to authorities work under draconian discipline and cruel verbiage) to return the empty bottles, and then took the money for her own use.
Now she has paid 4,000 NIS (about $1,000) for misappropriation of state resources.
Claims are that the payment short-changes the state treasury.
We can learn something about Israel politics by the treatment of the scandal by various media.
To understand what comes next, it is important to realize that Ha'aretz is on the left, Israel Hayom is the Sheldon Adelson newspaper which goes by the nickname Bibipress, and Yedioth Ahronoth is the arch enemy of Israel Hayom, fighting on the issue of the free distribution of Israel Hayom (which has taken the lead position from Yedioth Aharonoth in polls of media circulation) and just about everything else.
What follows comes from Friday editions, early in the treatment of the bottles.
The cartoonist for Ha'aretz treats it with his typically porcine portrayal of the first lady, telling a staff person "I need you to take something to the supermarket," while the scene on her television is of more important military action. She is surrounded by liquor bottles, which, as we have heard from one of her previous staff people, have become her habit and a trigger of her outbursts.
A lead item on Ha'aretz web site was headlined "State Comptroller delayed a report on expenses of the Prime Minister's household, by request of a family attorney," and "The report, that has rested for weeks in the State Comptroller's Office without publication, deals with extravagant expenditures presumably from taxpayers' money, hundreds of thousands of shekels for restaurant meals, and tens of thousands of shekels on flowers."
Yedioth Ahronoth featured the same story on its web site, along with another with the headline "The good life: 100 thousand shekels over two years for drinks in the Netanyahu household."
The first page of the Yedioth Ahronoth print edition has a story headlined, "Bottle Scandal . . . Small Money, Big Hutzpah."
Israel Hayom is predictably different.
Its front page features "Obama supporters come to help topple Netanyahu," which details an American public relations team that worked for Obama in 2012 now in Israel to help Bibi's opponents. Another front page item is headlined "Boehner: I invited Netanyahu, and that is within my authority." The second page features a story about Netanyahu recruiting Benny Begin (the son of . . . ) to his party's list for the coming election. Only on the ninth page are items about the bottles, with the headline, "Campaign at the lowest level: Instead of Basic Questions, Rumors and Insults."
The bottles have gone viral. Among the pictures received from sources skilled with cutting and pasting are two which depict the first lady as a bag woman, collecting bottles in trash bins for the 0.30 shekels that each is worth.
The Prime Minister has charged that the opposition has tried to defeat him with stories about returned bottles, while the real issues are who should be chosen to lead the country, i.e., him, or the leftists of Zionist Camp. Yet the multitude of stories about Sara may have their impact. Charges about her management of the household do not touch the Prime Minister directly, but there are also stories of her badgering him to fire government personnel who do not measure up to standards of appropriate obsequiousness.
Among those whose career was said to have been cut short by Sara is Naftali Bennett, who had served as Netanyahu's Chief of Staff. At signs of tension between the more Bennett as leader of Jewish Home and Natanyahu, there are commentators who see the shadow of Sara.
So far there is no clear sign that Sara has hurt Bibi. Polls continue to show Likud and Zionist Camp close to tied, in some polls one and in some polls the other in the lead. Forecasters continue to see Bibi having an easier task forming a coalition than Herzog-Livni.
Competing with the first family's bottles is a report that the football (soccer) player that Bennett recruited to the Jewish Home party list decided to save himself and the party the continued brouhaha by signing off. That may satisfy some of the rabbis in the upper echelon of Jewish Home, but it is leaving a nasty taste among Israel's Moroccans and other Sephardim. We've heard from religious North Africans that the farce is yet another indication that Bennett's party is a home for Ashkenazim only.
What is arguably a more serious event than either the Natanyahu bottles or the presence of a Sabbath-violating football player on the list of Jewish Home were coordinated attacks on Egyptian security forces in the Sinai, with responsibility claimed by a local branch of the Islamic State.
Looking at what was featured on a New York Times website, one wouldn;t know the potential importance of this latest advance by Islamic extremists, threatening not only the most important of Arab countries, but also close to its border with Israel. There the order of stories were
Rivalry at the peak of international tennisA project to deal with "revenge porn" on the InternetDeath of a prominent authorGoogle's profit report
So much for the world's leading newspaper."Bomb Attacks at Security Sites in Sinai Kill at Least 26"
What's missing from that article is an examination of a rift in policy rather than personality. Iran is far away from Washington, and its leaders have not repeatedly threatened the destruction of the United States. It is a mistake to focus on the personalities of two experienced politicians, both good actors, rather than the issue of Iran's nuclear program, and what Israel--led by Netanyahu or someone else--might do if the US lets Iran proceed as it wishes.