Everybody loves gossip; it is only human. There is a reason why slogans such as “lashon hara le medaber eilay” (gossip doesn’t speak to me) are popular, because the struggle against the impulse is an uphill battle. As a kid, I always remember seeing the National Enquirer, which survives on reporting (real or fake) gossip about celebrities. Although reporting by newspapers and news networks does not follow a gossip column approach, sometimes it encroaches on this territory in subtle ways.
For example, in an interview Ayelet Shaked gave to channel 12 shortly after new elections were called, Ofer Hadad asks her a number of important and provocative questions such as who she would be running with, whether she intends to return to the Ministry of Justice, why she thinks the New Right did so poorly, and whether she intends ever to run for Prime Minister.
And yet, at certain points, the interview veers into gossip territory. When discussing why she is not in the Likud, Hadad says “people say it is because Sara Netanyahu doesn’t want you there” (around min. 8:15). Shaked responds by saying that she doesn’t want to discuss issues between her and Sara Netanyahu.
The interview then cuts out to a narrator saying that Likud people grumble, though off the record, that that is the reason. The interview cuts back in and Hadad asks “So what does Sara Netanyahu have against you” (around min. 9). Shaked again, this time sounding annoyed, says that she doesn’t want to speak about personal gripes between her and the Prime Minister’s wife.
Hadad then repeats the question a third time, and Shaked responds that she worked for Netanyahu in a misrat eimun, literally “a position of trust,” which requires a certain amount of discretion from the (current or former) employee, such that it is unethical to ask her to comment on personal gripes that may be a consequence of that time. Whatever one thinks of this answer—I don’t really know anything about the etiquette of misrot eimun—she is clearly uncomfortable with the question, and as it has nothing to do with her competence, political views, and is not a scandal about her behavior, one imagines the interview should move on.
But instead, Hadad follows up with, “so I will tell you what I think” (around min. 9:35) and proceeds to simply rephrase the question as, “but aren’t you paying an unfair price politically from whatever this personal gripe is.” To which Shaked again repeats that she worked in a position of trust and will not discuss personal gripes between her and the Prime Minister’s wife.
What is happening in this interview? It would seem that the pull to discuss a cat fight was too strong not to keep trying. This is just a small example of a phenomenon I am hearing more and more frequently in interviews.
Of late, the most obvious example is the harping on the question of whether Moshe (Bogi) Yaalon approves of the agreement between Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid to have a rotation in which Gantz is prime minister for two and a half years, with Lapid as foreign minister, and then Lapid is prime minister for two and a half years, with Gantz as defense minister. In the past day or two alone, I have heard Yair Lapid asked this question three times, and the question has been asked repeatedly to Yaalon and to other leaders of Blue and White.
To clarify what is (and what is not) at stake: Bogi’s statement was not made in a press conference. Bogi did not get up and announce that he insists that the deal be cancelled or else. Nor did he say that he felt Lapid to be unqualified or that he would make a bad prime minister. Instead, Bogi was making a tactical claim: Lapid and the Yesh Atid faction is at loggerheads with the Chareidi parties over a number of issues, whereas Gantz and his Israel Resilience (Hosen Yisrael) faction have a less strained relationship with the religious parties. And yet, interviewer after interviewer brings Bogi’s supposed “opposition” up as if we have a full-blown scandal on our hands, or some political crisis. This, however, is smoke and mirrors.
Blue and White is built from a combination of parties. To make the history clear: In 2013, Yair Lapid built Yesh Atid; obviously, its preferred candidate for Prime Minister is Lapid. (For the sake of transparency, I will note that I am a member of this party.) In 2019, Benny Gantz founded the Hosen Yisrael (Israel Resilience) party; obviously, its preferred candidate for Prime Minister is Benny Gantz. At around the same time, Bogi founded the Telem party, but as they did not have enough projected votes to pass the threshold, they merged with Israel Resilience, with Gantz as the preferred Prime Minister and Bogi as preferred Defense Minister.
The problem was that neither Israel Resilience nor Yesh Atid had enough projected votes to defeat Likud, whereas together they were competitive with it, perhaps even a bit larger, so they merged. As Israel Resilience was doing better in the polls, Gantz took the leadership role, and, in the negotiated rotation, Gantz was first in line for Prime Minister and Lapid second.
I am sure that if Lapid had offered to take the foreign ministry portfolio, and let Gantz be the sole Prime Minister, the Israel Resilience people would have been happy, and the Yesh Atid people less so. I am equally sure that if Gantz had offered to take the defense portfolio, Bogi some other portfolio, and let Lapid be sole Prime Minister, the Yesh Atid people would have been happy and the Israel Resilience people less so. Instead, they compromised.
It is no surprise that, in an ideal world, Bogi, who had merged his party with that of Gantz and not that of Lapid, would have been happy to see Gantz as sole Prime Minister. I imagine that if the Telem party had garnered a projected 30 seats on their own, Bogi would have been happy to see himself as sole Prime Minister. But that is not how things played out, and thus Gantz, Lapid, and Bogi very smartly compromised. More importantly, Bogi has consistently stated that he supports the party’s decision to have a rotation, that Lapid will make a good prime minister, and that it is normal for leaders to debate different sides but then support the agreed upon outcome.
In short, there is no story here.
So why does the question keep coming up? I can only guess because even though it isn’t news, if Bogi and Lapid can be coaxed into a public row—so far it seems they cannot be—it would make a good cat fight worthy of any gossip column.