Maariv daily paper purchased by ultra-rightist publisher

Israel’s 3rd largest daily is expected to merge with Makor Rishon, a conservative paper especially popular among settlements, and edited by Netanyahu’s former chief of staff.

The Hebrew media is reporting today (Friday) that Maariv, the 3rd largest daily paper in Israel, will be sold to Shlomo Ben-Zvi, the publisher of the rightwing broadsheet Makor Rishon.

Maariv has been losing money for a decade. The paper’s financial troubles got worse after the introduction of Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Hayom – a daily paper distributed for free at considerable loss. Maariv was recently under immediately threat of shutting down. Employees were notified this week that only one-third of this month’s salary would be paid on time.

Following a meeting between Ben-Zvi and the owner of Maariv, businessman Nochi Dankner, it emerged that Maariv will change hands in exchange for NIS 85 million ($22 million).

Under Ben-Zvi, Maariv is expected to merge with Makor Rishon, a paper known for its ultra-rightist political line. The editor in-chief of Makor Rishon is Uri Elizur, former chief of staff for Prime Minister Netanyahu. Last year, it was made known that Elizur wrote speeches and provided editing services for Netanyahu while serving as Makor Rishon’s editor. Among other contributors for Makor Rishon are Haggai Segal, a former member of the Jewish Underground, and Dr. Yoaz Hendel, former spokesperson for Netanyahu (both write op-eds for Yedioth Ahronoth as well).

Makor Rishon has a reputation for high-quality reporting and analysis (albeit from an extremely conservative position). The tagline on the paper’s website is “Makor Rishon, the most Jewish – a national Israeli paper.” (the Hebrew use of the word “national” here is as a common synonym for rightwing, as in “the national camp”, and not in line with the American usage, which refers to the area of coverage.)

The purchase of Maariv is likely to increase the influence of Netanyahu and the right on the media market in Israel. Makor Rishon has been leading the most favorable line for the settlements in the Israeli media.

Prime Minister Netanyahu already enjoys the blunt support of Israel Hayom, which, due to its ever-growing free-of-charge distribution, is now the most widely read paper in Israel. Recently, it was discovered that a top political pundit for Israel Hayom also works at the Prime Minister Office.

UPDATE: It’s worth mentioning that the current editor of Maariv, Nir Hefetz, is also a former speaker of Netanyahu, though the paper showed a lukewarm approach to the prime minister under him.