Here’s a surefire way to create some legal intrigue: take one former prime minister on trial for corruption, add his most loyal aide turning on him, and give it a deadline of 4 p.m., and you’ll have a suspenseful political drama that few TV shows can top.
The drama will reach a boiling point when the presiding judge, Judge David Rozen, rules if Shula Zaken, Olmert’s long-time aide, can testify against him. Before Zaken decided to sign a deal, a verdict was originally due to be delivered against Olmert on Monday, and the move to add another witness is raising some legal eyebrows.
Yedioth Ahronoth frames its coverage with the article headline, “Waiting for the judge,” and writes that if the judge doesn’t allow Zaken’s testimony, Monday morning at 9 a.m. has been set for a verdict to be given against Olmert. The paper also states that regardless of the outcome, prosecutors are expecting to investigate Olmert “in the coming days” over Zaken’s testimony.
Writing in Israel Hayom, columnist Dan Margalit says that no matter if Judge Rozen rejects or accepts Zaken’s testimony, both outcomes are fine. If he accepts it, then it is a step closer for justice against Olmert. And if he rejects it, then the public will hear what is on the recordings between Olmert and Zaken and Olmert won’t be able to escape that. He concludes with a prophecy, “The hour of justice has arrived.”
Israel Hayom also features another op-ed from law professor Aviad Hacohen, who writes that the court must “ascertain the truth.” However, he cautions, the court’s decision will be based on strict laws of evidence and not what is popular. Hacohen concludes, “With all the difficulty of it, the court is ordered to clarify the truth. And that can not be revealed in full unless all the evidence relevant to the trial is heard.”
In its coverage of the trial, Haaretz includes a piece about how another long and drawn-out case is looking for its Zaken. The Harpaz Affair, which started in 2010 when a fake document was created to influence then IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi’s successor, has dragged on for nearly four years. Yet prosecutors are still investigating the document and the paper writes that there is even a gag order on the case through April 10. But prosecutors are looking for that one witness to break open the case much like Zaken is doing for the Olmert case.
Deal or no deal?
While Olmert’s trial has taken top billing in Sunday’s papers, the next steps for the peace talk are up in the air. Yedioth reports that there’s a new initiative afoot for Israel to release more Palestinian prisoners in order to keep talks going. While this current round of prisoner release (the fourth) is in jeopardy, Israel is worried about the consequences of the talks failing and wants to keep negotiating. Israel is proposing a mini-agreement with the Palestinians: keep peace talks going for another year, and Israel will release prisoners this round and more prisoners at the end of the year.
Israel Hayom reports that the prisoner release has been delayed and Israel has not offered any reason why. Palestinian sources tell the paper that Ramallah approved an American request to delay the prisoner release until the middle of the week. The paper quotes the Arab newspaper Al Hayat which reported that Netanyahu is worried that his government may fall if he releases Israeli-Arab prisoners this time. No official word from Netanyahu one way or another on the issue.
While the two sides try to hash out an agreement, Haaretz reports that deputy minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) met with representatives of a Flemish anti-Semitic party. The meeting is questionable since both the Flemish Jewish community and the Israeli embassy have banned the “extreme right party, with racist and anti-Semitic characteristics.” Akunis, though, didn’t hide the meeting and the paper reports that he was proud to meet with the party and continues “to explain Israel, without apology or spin.”
Assad’s palace in Israel
First there was Homeland, now there is Tyrant. Yedioth reports on Gideon Raff’s new series, which is being filmed in Israel, about a fictional Middle Eastern leader who lives in the West, has a Western wife, and comes back to his homeland to rule. Sound familiar? Yedioth thinks so too, and, having found the fake palace that has been built for the show, labels it “Assad’s palace in Kfar Saba.” Aside from getting a new palace, Kfar Saba’s mayor is excited about the city’s increased exposure and “the half a million shekels that the production company has already paid in taxes.”