Yariv Googleheimer
Yariv Googleheimer Screenshot by permission of Latma.co.il

The Chairman and the Director of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) promised the Knesset's Education Committee Monday that the IBA will sign a contract with nationalistic satire Latma in two months' time, for production of a weekly program.

The satire ran successfully on an internet platform for three years but negotiations with IBA's TV Channel 1 dragged out and came to nothing, until Latma's production was halted in July due to budget limitations. The program is the brainchild of Caroline Glick, who is also Deputy Editor of the Jerusalem Post.

Nationalist legislators became involved in the matter when the IBA broadcast a promotional clip for a harsh left wing satire which depicted nationalists as murderers. This made it possible for the MKs to demand Latma as a counterbalance to the leftist satire.

MK Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home/Bayit Yehudi) said at the debate Monday that while she knows that the IBA decided, in the course of the last two weeks, to sign a contract with Latma, such decisions were announced in the past but came to nothing, and “we are conducting today's discussion in order to make sure that this thing does not happen again.”

When asked why the contract was not yet signed, IBA Chairman Amir Gilat and Director Yoni Ben Menachem proceeded to provide the committee with lengthy bureaucratic explanations. It was not clear from the discussion whether the approval depends on the IBA's Content Committee or its management. Ben Menachem eventually explained that IBA Management has to approve the work plan for 2014 in order for contracts to be signed.

Gilat confirmed that a work plan had been submitted and that it will be approved within 14 days, after which the management could announce a broadcast schedule.

MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) told the two: “There is suspicion toward you from at least 50% of the public in Israel, because until now, satire in Israel was only leftist. Everyone admits it and it is no use arguing.” He accused the two of trying to wear down the MKs with bureaucratese and said that this makes the suspicion toward them even greater.

Committee Chairman MK Amram Mitzna (Hatnua) summed up the debate and noted for the record that the committee expects to hear by January 1, 2014, that the program has been approved, and to receive an update “within weeks” that it has been placed on the broadcast schedule for 2014. “I suggest that bureaucracy not dictate our lives in such an extreme way,” he added.

Many nationalists are convinced that Latma is feared by the left wing bureaucracy because it is effective and biting. Peace Now Chairman Yariv Oppenheimer, for example, lost his cool last year after a particularly stinging takeoff on a popular song in which Latma showed him and other leftists as "Jews united against Israel."

"In this way, systematically and cunningly, the right is attempting to portray whoever does not think like they do as anti-Israeli, as a traitor, as an enemy within," Oppenheimer wrote on his Facebook page. "I find myself battling dark forces that try to put things in my mouth that I never said," he complained.

Channel 1 is considered mainstream and is state-owned. It does not have the high ratings of commercial channels 2 and 10, however. 

Channel 2's satirical programs are all leftist, and its flagship satire, Eretz Nehederet, has aired extremely cruel skits targeting “settlers” and nationalist MKs, including ex-MK Yaakov Katz (“Ketzaleh”), whom they presented as firing upon IDF soldiers

"They present me,” Katz protested at the time, “an IDF officer and a disabled IDF veteran, whose sons serve in the IDF in the best units... they see their father presented as one who fires upon soldiers... This is Eretz Nehederet's freedom of expression. That it is OK to [libel] an IDF officer, a disabled vet, because he has a beard like [a stereotypical settler]. This program was planned in order to make it possible after it is aired to expel the settlers – just like the Nazis planned how to kill the Jews. First you besmirch them and then you slaughter them. I take full responsibility for this statement. Let them sue me! Have I ever raised a hand against an IDF soldier?”