Daily Israel Report

Nationalist Paper May Fold Thursday

Makor Rishon and Maariv-NRG were to be sold to Sheldon Adelson but bureaucracy may kill the deal.
By Shlomo Pitrikovsky, Gil Ronen
First Publish: 4/27/2014, 6:08 PM

Israeli press
Israeli press
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Employees of nationalist newspaper Makor Rishon and the Maariv-NRG website held an emergency meeting at the publications' offices in Jerusalem, days away from the expected closure of the news outlets.

The meeting was convened following the announcement by the businesses' appointed trustee, CPA Chen Berdichev, according to which he will have to close down the news outlets and fire all of their employees, if the Anti-Trust Authority Director fails to approve their sale to the Israel Hayom group by week's end.

The employees agreed to step up their protests against the Anti-Trust Authority Director David Gilo, whose signature is needed for the sale to proceed.

The editors of Makor Rishon wrote an editorial Friday in which they expressed concern that Gilo is facing heavy pressure from “business and political interests” – which presumably include Israel Hayom's main competitor, Yediot Aharonot – not to approve the deal in time to save the newspaper.

The employees will freeze their protests for Holocaust Remembrance Day, and renew them Tuesday, with a demonstration outside the offices of the Anti-Trust Authority Director.

"We are in a critical, do or die situation now,” said Makor Rishon's political correspondent, Ariel Kahana, in the meeting. “We are on a stopwatch until Thursday evening, and the entire story is in the hands of the Anti-Trust Authority Director. Right now, faced with the court appointed trustee's announcement, the lack of approval for the Adelson Group purchase is, in effect, a writ of closure. It is inconceivable that a newspaper would be closed down in the name of freedom of business.”

Makor Rishon Editor-in-Chief Uri Elitzur said that the times were “serious and sad.” Unless the sale is approved by Thursday, he added, “the newspaper will die and turn into a carcass. A newspaper that does not come out turns into a carcass, and I am not sure the Anti-Trust Authority Director understands this.”

MK Orit Struk (Jewish Home) called on the Anti-Trust Authority Director to speed up his decision. “The newspaper's shutdown will be a serious blow to freedom of expression and could gravely hurt this quality newspaper's readers, and the special hue it adds to public discourse in Israel,” she warned. She expressed hope that senior journalists would join her call, as they did when Channel 10 faced closure.

Unlike Makor Rishon, Channel 10 leans heavily to the political left. It has been repeatedly saved by state loans from shutting down.