‘Galatz’ no more?

The present IDF chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, has made public his opinion that a radio station should not be part of the army.

A SOLDIER from Army Radio at the station in 2013. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A SOLDIER from Army Radio at the station in 2013.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Galatz’ is the Hebrew abbreviation of Galei Zahal – Army Radio (literally “the waves of the IDF”) Last week the Israeli public was informed that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman had decided to move Galatz from the military to the Defense Ministry.
This is not a trivial move, for it means that if and when it actually happens Galatz will become an independent entity, operating within the Defense Ministry, much as the Israel Broadcasting Authority is an independent entity operating within the Communications Ministry or the Israel Educational Television network is attached to the Education Ministry.
The present IDF chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, has made public his opinion that a radio station should not be part of the army. Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon disagreed, but now with Liberman replacing him, the decision seems to have been made to accept the recommendation of the chief of staff, one that Ehud Barak, too, supported in 1992 when he was chief of staff.
But truth be told it is far from certain that it will happen, and worse, even if it does it may not improve the situation. In fact, if deputy attorney-general Dina Silber has her way, it will only further the distance between the station and the public. Silber, who is known for her left-wing views, has been given the authority to lay down the legal guidelines which are to govern the transition of the station. The headline in Makor Rishon last Friday had it thus: “This is the method by which Galatz will keep its independence in the Defense Ministry.”
As reported in Makor Rishon, Silber’s directive, presumably affirmed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, had it among other things that the station would be under the control of the Defense Ministry director-general, and not the minister. Moreover, the government would not be permitted to move the station from the Defense Ministry to any other structure or institution within the government. Of course, the head of the station would not be chosen by the minister but by a committee whose head is someone such as a former Supreme Court justice or the president of the Israel Press Council. It really does not matter how it is accomplished, as long as it is the outdated elites who identify with the liberal progressive Left who control the station.
One would hope that Liberman will ignore these antidemocratic directives. But then what? What type of station will it be? What should its mandate be? News? Entertainment? Political commentary? Battle chronicles? Analysis?
We believe that the best decision is to close the station. We have published our outlook for over two decades now. Israel does not need the station, there is no need for taxpayers to fund it. We already have more than enough government-funded media outlets. It would be much better to leave the playing field to private competition and spare the government the expense.
We are not naïve, however. This will not happen. Bureaucratic inertia and the love of politicians for “playthings” outweighs logic. The shouts of “gevalt!” coming from Israel’s elite will be heard from one side of the world to the other. The government will be accused of being antidemocratic. The media elite, many of whom are alumni of the station and fully understand its important role of keeping Israel’s airwaves clear of true pluralism, will use their power to stop such a decision, as they have successfully done in the past.
What then, will the station continue to employ army recruits? Probably yes, even though this, too, is not exactly justified. Where does the state get the moral right to draft young people into jobs that do not have anything to do with the defense of the State of Israel? But let’s gloss over the niceties. Minister Liberman could take advantage of the transition and change the ground rules. Nowadays, soldiers who are of combat quality cannot even apply to serve at Galatz. This is a wonderful rule, since in practice it means that highly motivated and Zionistic youngsters will never be able to enter this bastion of the Left.
Galatz has suffered in the past incidents in which employees seemed to “misunderstand” the station’s identity. Examples abound. In 2002, Galatz commander Avi Benayahu had to suspend Amos Krieger for allowing Saed Kashua to attack the IDF’s actions across the Green Line – on Remembrance Day. This past summer, Yaron Dekel, the station’s current commander, was reprimanded for permitting an interview which touted the anti-Zionist poet Mahmoud Darwish’s output as a “classic Israeli text.”
There is, though, a way out. Being accepted as an employee of the station should be conditioned on having first served 18 months in a regular unit. Moreover, the gender discrimination should cease. Both men and women should agree to a three-year stint in the station, of which during the last 18 months they would be considered regular soldiers receiving a modest salary. This would assure that the people serving in the station had first-hand army experience.
It would increase their identification with what should be the station’s core Zionist values. It would insure that the recruits do not partake in the post-Zionist army bashing which has been too often the hallmark of the radio station.
The authors are members of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imediaw.org.il).