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The Jewish Report Editorial

The true meaning of ‘sitting on shpilkes’

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Will he capitulate, or find a way to an agreement, or won’t he? When is he going to announce who he will choose for his cabinet? These were just some of the frustrating questions that rattled me and our editorial staff throughout Wednesday. As you may or may not know, the SA Jewish Report is published late on Wednesday.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | May 30, 2019

It just so happens that the future of the Israeli and South African government was hanging in the balance on this particular Wednesday. It was big stuff.

And we waited… with an empty front page.

Newly inaugurated South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was taking a very long time to announce his cabinet.

And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – whose Likud party won the Israel elections – was battling to create his coalition government. In the strange horse-trading that is so typical of Israeli politics, things fell apart because Yisrael Beyteinu, a right wing secular party, would not agree to a condition made by the ultra-Orthodox parties. Lieberman, the leader of Yisrael Beyteinu, would not agree to the ultra-Orthodox condition that they do not have to serve in the army. However, it seems to go way deeper. Read Paula Slier’s column alongside this editorial.

The upshot of this is that Netanyahu had until midnight on Wednesday to come to an agreement with his proposed coalition or Israel would head for a snap election. And for most of Wednesday, nobody seemed to be budging as the hours passed.

For us, this was nerve-wracking. To say I was sitting on shpilkes was an understatement. Our front page sat empty.

For the Israeli story, Paula wrote three pieces, giving us different options. The first would be used if Netanyahu managed to come to an agreement with Lieberman before we went to print. The second piece was for a snap election, and the final piece was if no decision was made before midnight, and the second election was to come into play anyway.

As for the South African situation, I thought it was going to be a breeze when I woke up on Wednesday morning to hear on 702 that President Cyril Ramaphosa was going to have a press conference at 16:00. Everyone expected him to announce his new cabinet then. It seemed obvious because until then, he is the only member of the cabinet. He is the only leader of government. So, none of the government ministries or departments have a head, which means little movement in any big decisions in the country.

But as our journalist began preparing for this announcement, and started making enquiries and setting up interviews, it seemed there was no certainly about the time of the announcement.

In fact, there was total silence about any announcement. There was a clear indication that he might not say one word to the public on Wednesday, and that this would carry on later in the week.

So, the daily newspapers and online media put out speculative articles about who would be – or should be – in Ramaphosa’s cabinet, and why he was taking so long to make his decision.

And, we waited in hope, as our front page sat bare.

Now, while I was sitting on shpilkes in the offices of the SA Jewish Report, the world out there wasn’t so happy either. Nobody likes to be kept waiting for vital information, especially when a country’s future is at stake.

“The delay in the cabinet announcement unnerved investors counting on Ramaphosa’s reform policies,” was the introduction to the story headlined, “Rand rocked by… uncertain politics” on Moneyweb on Wednesday afternoon.

BusinessLive led with “Rand at seven-month low as SA awaits cabinet announcement”. And so it went on.

The Israeli media relayed what it dubbed “the coalition crisis”, which it feared would send the country back to the polls at a huge cost to the country. It would also mean that there would be no clear government to take the country forward until snap elections, which could take place only in six months’ time.

Headlines littering the media were “Netanyahu and Lieberman’s political fight just got out of hand”, “Netanyahu’s darkest, deepest fear just came true”, and “Snap elections loom ahead of midnight deadline for coalition efforts”. As well as Israel is doing economically and on other fronts, no country can afford to waste taxpayers’ money on an additional election. It’s that simple.

So, while these two massive scenarios played out around the leadership of these two countries, we at the SA Jewish Report kept going back to this empty page, hoping for some kind of resolution before we had to send the newspaper to print. The clock was ticking…

It felt like time had slowed down, and we waited for word. Then, after 17:00, we heard that Ramaphosa would announce the cabinet at 20:00.

So, we held the front page…

You may ask yourself why we make such a big deal about what we put on the front page of our newspaper, and why we should wait to make sure that you have the latest news. “You are only a community newspaper,” some would say.

But that’s just it. We are your community newspaper, and we want to make sure that you have the most up-to-date news as possible. We will do whatever we can to make sure that you have that.

We carefully consider what goes into this newspaper… and what doesn’t. This extends to every article we run.

This is just a tiny insight into the goings on in this newsroom. I hope you enjoy the fruits.

Shabbat Shalom!

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