Living in a rough neighborhood, Israel has always had to rely on its seaports to get goods from its global trading partners. Alon Hassan, the head of the port workers union of the Ashdod, has long being suspected of questionable business practices, and now the police have added another question mark next to his name.
Israel Hayom leads the way with an appropriately aquatic pun as a headline, “A sea of corruption.” Inside it describes how a yearlong undercover investigation led to the arrest of union leader Alon Hassan for bribery and extortion. After being arrested, the court in Petah Tikva extended the remand for Hassan for seven days, noting the seriousness and complexity of the charges against him.
Dan Margalit weighs in on the investigation, comparing it to the classic movie “On the Waterfront.” He calls the whole affair “classic organized crime” and marvels at how hard it must have been for the police to infiltrate. He urges the public to give the police time to prove their case, but also urges the police “not to act carelessly and lazily as they did in the forged document released by Ashkenazi’s office [referring to former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi and the Harpaz affair].”
Yedioth Ahronoth, also using “A sea of corruption” to headline its article (is there only one maritime pun?), goes into a bit more detail about who else was nabbed with Hassan. With a nifty infographic it shows how “all paths lead to Hassan” with those arrested accused of corruption and promoting the interests of Hassan’s private companies over those of the port.
Also included in the coverage is sidebar about how Ashkenazi is involved in the case. The paper reports that Ashkenazi was called Tuesday night to the police to provide information about the port as it connected to his role as director of the Shemen (oil) company, whose owners have been named in the port investigation and one of whom has been put under house arrest. The paper points out that Ashkenazi himself is not under suspicion of any wrongdoing.
Haaretz puts a picture of Hassan on its front page but the paper’s top story is politics. Haaretz gets into the election spirit by releasing the results of a survey it commissioned about who the public would like to see as the next president. The results: Reuven Rivlin takes the top spot with 31% of the public behind him. Coming in second with 22% is non-Knesset member and Nobel Prize winner Professor Dan Shechtman. However, the paper quickly points out the futility of its survey: “This data is relatively meaningless as the president is chosen by the Knesset and not the general public. Previous presidential elections have shown that Knesset members do what they want, and don’t listen to the wishes of the public.”
Yedioth includes a short article on one person who is not running for president: David Levy. “Staying in Beit She’an,” is how the paper describes Levy’s non-campaign. Aside from refusing to run for president, Levy also refused to say who he supported in the election.
New battles, old wars
It has been a few days since there has been a flare-up between the IDF and the treasury, but it seems the IDF has fired another metaphorical shot. Yedioth reports that the IDF just canceled a major air defense exercise and is reducing the hours for reserve pilots to fly. The reason for the reductions is money, as the IDF says it simply cannot afford to pay for the exercises or the flight time. A major exercise was scheduled to begin on Sunday and last through Thursday.
While the IDF is begging for more money, prosecutors are seeking to reopen an old case against Ehud Olmert. Haaretz reports that the former prime minister, who was recently convicted for accepting bribes, was also convicted two years ago of breach of trust in the Talansky Affair (another corruption case) but was otherwise acquitted. Now based on recordings received from Shula Zaken, Olmert’s former aide who turned against him, Olmert allegedly interfered in the trial by convincing Zaken not to testify against him. No word yet if the case will be reopened.
Over in Israel Hayom, the paper reports that the testimony of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto could “break everything open” in the case against former police commander Menashe Arviv. Pinto arrived in Israel on Tuesday and went straight to Jerusalem for hours of testimony, where he allegedly discussed the favors he gave Arviv. However, police will only seriously consider Pinto’s claims if he can provide hard evidence against Arviv and pass a polygraph test.
Wednesday is Jerusalem Day and Yedioth celebrates by printing short poems and songs about Jerusalem every few pages. Sharing a page with a Jerusalem poem is Justin Timberlake, who himself was in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Timberlake is performing on Wednesday night in Tel Aviv but was seen praying at the Western Wall on Tuesday. He must have put his set list in the Wall, as Yedioth prints what it thinks he’ll be performing.
According to Israel Hayom, Netanyahu and the other government ministers will be celebrating Jerusalem Day at a ceremony on Ammunition Hill, where a prominent battle took place during the Six Day War. Additionally the paper reports that the government has pledged 50 million shekels (about $14.3 million) to rebuild the “Glory of Israel” synagogue in the Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter. Housing Minister Uri Ariel laid the cornerstone for the synagogue on Tuesday and said, “Jerusalem is the heart of the nation. It is impossible to cut it into pieces, just like you can’t cut the heart out of the body.”