Ha'aretz, Israel's Liberal Beacon
Then there is Rosner's blog, a landfall for hardliners inside Ha'aretz's liberal archipelago. In the wake of Hamas's Gaza takeover in June, Rosner suggested (in a piece written with Aluf Benn) that the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might be ditched in favor of a Palestinian confederation or autonomous region comprising Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan. Such an alternative, Rosner wrote, "can be viewed as part of the search for a solution, but also as a whip being held over the head of the hesitant [Palestinian Authority President] Abbas." It was a brazen proposition even within the Washington Beltway, where the goal of Palestinian statehood is embraced across much of the political spectrum.
Rosner, who worked as an editor at Ha'aretz before moving to Washington, acknowledges his minority status at the paper but says he is no outcast. "As an editor," he says, "I've had to justify my decisions to colleagues, but the dialogue was always professional. I don't agree with most of the paper's editorials and neither do a lot of readers, but they subscribe anyway because it is so good."
Ha'aretz is privately owned and is not obliged to declare its finances, though it is thought to be at least modestly profitable. Its English-language website attracts more readers than both the Hebrew-language print and online editions. Its business section, The Marker, is hugely popular and has helped to boost growth of fully paid subscriptions by some 15 percent over the past few years. At a time when most papers are shutting overseas bureaus, Ha'aretz is expanding its presence in New York and California.
As a newspaper that succeeds with smart reporting and good writing, Ha'aretz is a model worthy of emulation for a troubled news industry worldwide. But to evaluate it only as a good business plan misses the point. Unique among national newspapers, Ha'aretz is both public forum and chronicle of a religious and political movement that has, for good or ill, transformed a region and consumed the world. If the paper has a bias, it is less its liberal sensibility than its appeal to the possible--like Yitzhak Rabin's "calculated risk" for a negotiated peace--over the reflexively negative of our post-9/11 world. By creating a home for opinions and values that are at odds with its own, Ha'aretz radiates security in its identity and convictions. And by supporting dialogue with Israel's enemies, it projects confidence in the Jewish state's ability to coexist with its neighbors as just one rational actor among many. At a time when the Zionist movement appears to be content with exchanging one ghetto for another, Ha'aretz insists on an Israel that is of the world as well as in it.
"We have an obligation be a factor in Israeli democracy, to play a role in the Zionist enterprise," says Landau. "We can't trim our sails. This is the reason we exist."