Another controversy brewing with Even-Sa’ar? - analysis

Some believe that broadcaster Geula Even-Sa’ar should give up her new role as an anchor on one of Israel's most important news programs because she is married to Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar.

 Justice Minister Gideon Saar and his wife Geula attend an event with Saar supporters after losing in the elections for the Likud leadership, in Or Yehuda, January 2, 2020. (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Justice Minister Gideon Saar and his wife Geula attend an event with Saar supporters after losing in the elections for the Likud leadership, in Or Yehuda, January 2, 2020.
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

Should a spouse be forced to sacrifice his or her profession if there appears to be a conflict of interests between the professions of the two partners in a marriage?

People who are loyal to opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu believe that veteran broadcaster Geula Even-Sa’ar, whose main focus is on news and current affairs, should give up her new role as anchor of the Friday night news roundup on KAN 11.

Even-Sa’ar was chosen following the departure to Canada of Yaron Deckel, who is now a Jewish Agency emissary. For a few weeks, the position was filled by Yair Weinreb, but it lacked pizzazz or Deckel’s authoritarian style of broadcasting.

It needed something fresh and different – perhaps a woman’s touch in an era in which women have risen to top positions and are continuing to do so, especially in fields such as journalism and law.

But therein lies the rub. Even-Sa’ar is married to Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, who has long been a thorn in the side of Netanyahu, and Bibi supporters within Likud are kicking up a storm, claiming that Even-Sa’ar is incapable of maintaining the impartiality her role demands if her husband is both the leader of a political party and a member of the government.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar is seen pointing at Benjamin Netanyahu's signature on a Likud-sponsored bill to stop Ehud Olmert from being able to form a government, in the Knesset on July 26, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar is seen pointing at Benjamin Netanyahu's signature on a Likud-sponsored bill to stop Ehud Olmert from being able to form a government, in the Knesset on July 26, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Even-Sa’ar, who made her debut in her new role last Friday night, started off with a point of disclosure by stating that she was married to the justice minister. Considering her double-barreled surname, there was really no need for an explanation, but she wanted to get it out in the open. That was probably the best way to deal with the issue, which will continue to come up for as long as she stays on the air and her husband stays in politics.

Even-Sa’ar has anchored and co-anchored various news and current-affairs programs since her marriage to Sa’ar in May 2013, but it didn’t seem to bother her current critics during the years in which Sa’ar was a Likud minister.

But not only do people in the political opposition want her to step down, there are also people on the Left who believe it’s problematic for Even-Sa’ar to anchor one of the most important news and current-affairs programs on the public broadcasting channel – not that it would make much difference if she held a similar position on a commercial channel. But since the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation receives its budget from the Finance Ministry, which indirectly means that the Finance Ministry is responsible for Even-Sa’ar’s salary, there are those who see a connection, even though it’s a purely technical and very indirect one.

What it all boils down to is a way of hurting Sa’ar by attacking his wife.

It is not the first time that Even-Sa’ar has had to sacrifice her own career ambitions for those of her husband.

THE QUESTION is: Should she have done so, or should her husband have to sacrifice his?

It’s a question that also perturbs Maariv columnist Ben Caspit, who asked where all the feminists are. He would have expected them to stand up for and stand by Even-Sa’ar, but it’s an issue from which they are keeping their distance.

Considering that there’s broad consensus in relation to her high level of professionalism, Even-Sa’ar, 49, has had to contend with a lot of tough breaks in a career that began at Army Radio, where she was stationed during her mandatory army service. It was there that she began presenting current-affairs programs and reporting on news events.

In 1993, she began working for the now-defunct Israel Broadcasting Authority and, together with the late Daniel Pe’er, anchored Good Morning Israel on Reshet Bet.

In October 1997, when Haim Yavin, the star anchor of Channel 1, the IBA’s television station, decided to leave, Even-Sa’ar was appointed in his stead. It was quite an achievement for a young woman in her mid-20s at a time when there were very few cracks in the glass ceiling. But then, after a while, Yavin was persuaded to return, and Even-Sa’ar was transferred to a program called A New Evening, which didn’t have quite the same status as the Mabat central news program.

Soon after, she also anchored the Friday night weekly news diary for six years and from time to time presented current-affairs programs.

When Yavin made his final exit from Channel 1 in 2007, Even-Sa’ar was the natural choice to succeed him in anchoring Mabat but was unable to reach an agreement with management over the salary she thought she should receive and withdrew her candidacy.

In January 2008, Merav Miller and Yinon Magal were chosen to co-anchor Mabat but were really unsuited for the task, and the program lost much of its former appeal.

When it became obvious that there was no way to rescue the IBA from extinction, Even-Sa’ar signed up with its successor, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, and in March 2017 was appointed to anchor the main news on KAN 11.

This also sparked a lot of criticism, especially as Netanyahu believed that Gideon Sa’ar was scheming to unseat him from both the Likud leadership and the premiership.

In December 2018, Even-Sa’ar voluntarily stepped down from anchoring the news after her husband, who had taken a break from politics, decided to return to the arena and compete in the Likud primaries.

Once he formed his own political party, New Hope, and ran with it in the most recent Knesset election, Even-Sa’ar adopted a low profile. Then the powers that be at KAN 11 decided that in order to boost ratings, they needed the best person to anchor the most important news program of the week, and that person was Even-Sa’ar. She acquitted herself very well as she parried with colleagues around the table.

But her case is not isolated. Many couples are in careers that may overlap or in which there is a seeming conflict of interests.

Neither should have to quit, but every company should have an arbiter who can sit with couples in such situations and work out solutions that are acceptable to both sides, with neither having to give up on their career ambitions.