Big House bound
Hebrew media review

Big House bound

As Olmert heads to prison, battles over the president and the defense budget heat up

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert before his sentencing at the Tel Aviv District Court, Tuesday, May 13, 2014 (photo credit: Yotam Ronen/POOL/Flash90)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert before his sentencing at the Tel Aviv District Court, Tuesday, May 13, 2014 (photo credit: Yotam Ronen/POOL/Flash90)

Much like the last piece of technology you bought, papers were obsolete only a few hours after they hit the streets Tuesday, filled with prognostications over former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s sentencing rendered meaningless by the 9 a.m. announcement that he would be spending six years in the slammer.

But with all three major dailies correctly predicting a jail sentence for Olmert in the Holyland trial, the pre-analyses offered by their various and sundry quill jockeys are still relevant.

Nahum Barnea in Yedioth Ahronoth pens a blistering diatribe against any schadenfreude some might be feeling at seeing Olmert put behind bars.

“There’s not a shred of joy in the fact that a former prime minister is being sent to prison. I suggest for all those that clung to him and benefited from him, and now in his downfall spit upon him, all those that found him guilty years before the Holyland was planned, all the prosecutors and police who failed in taking care of organized crime and murders and Jewish terror and found succor in this case, to keep their joy to themselves.”

In Israel Hayom, Dan Margalit pins down the importance of sentencing Olmert — once a close friend of his — to jail, saying anything less will be seen as if he got off scot-free, as happened with an earlier case when Olmert was only convicted on lesser charges and given a suspended sentence.

“It used to be that harsh words from judges served their purpose even when handing down a light sentence, but criminals turned the tables. It’s not important what the judges said in their ruling – even [the previous judges] found Olmert guilty of four counts of breach of trust – and only a light sentence allowed him to present the whole case as a victory.”

Oh president, where art thou?

Haaretz gives front page coverage to the issue of pushing off the presidential vote, reporting that silence by the heads of three coalition partners is breathing new life into the idea, reportedly bruited by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and roundly criticized.

“There’s no reason for us to present a clear position at the moment,” a Jewish Home source is quoted saying. “For now we can sit on the fence and examine Netanyahu’s proposal.”

The paper’s Yossi Verter, who on Monday compared Netanyahu to a raging bull, continues his offensive, this time adding Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid to his hit list for caving to Netanyahu on the issue of who will head the key Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

“If Lapid were a little less arrogant, he would have seen back in November that there are things that don’t pass muster,” he writes.

Not everybody has come out against the idea of pushing off the presidency or getting rid of it. Israel Hayom, which some see as a Netanyahu mouthpiece, reports that there is wide support for the gambit among ministers, citing a source close to Netanyahu.

In fact, the paper writes that all ministers will support the proposal, before quietly noting that two ministers, Gideon Saar and Uri Ariel, have already come out against.

The paper’s op-ed page offers two commentators writing on whether the institute of the presidency is needed at all. Gideon Alon, who as a reporter covered two of Israel’s presidents, writes that a good president can bring the country together and also present a softer face to the wider world, noting Yitzhak Navon’s trip to Egypt for the funeral of Anwar Sadat as one example.

On the other side, Smadar Bat Adam writes that the institute of the presidency can be summed up in six words: “Unnecessary, expensive, wasteful, embarrassing and sometimes subversive.”

Knife in the heart

Yedioth reports on another institution some apparently think is unnecessary, a yearly remembrance for students killed in a terror attack in the town of Maalot 40 years ago. Despite its less than princely NIS 10,000 price tag, the Defense Ministry, currently fighting a budget battle and trying to prove a case that it is broke, announced it would not fund the memorial ceremony this year, leaving already grieving families further aggrieved.

“This isn’t a money problem, this is a slap in the face and chutzpah to families of which I’ve never seen a parallel,” the paper quotes Safed Mayor Ilan Shohat, who lost a cousin in the attack, saying. “The army is very close to my heart and it’s hard for me to criticize, but there is a lack of feeling here from the Defense Ministry… The decision of the Defense Ministry says in effect to the bereaved families: ‘We’re not with you.’ You are carrying this pain for 40 years, and this unfortunate decision is twisting the knife in their hearts.”

In Haaretz, Nehemia Shtrasler writes that instead of canceling modest memorial ceremonies or the presidency, the state should look to save money by cutting back on large defense expenditures the brass lavish upon themselves.

“If [Defense Minister Moshe] Ya’alon and [IDF Chief of Staff Benny] Gantz have a problem with the budget, they should learn how to run an organization under conditions of scarcity. Of course they have to hold training exercises, but to fund them they can cut back in many other areas. Yes, the list goes on; here are some examples: the scandalously high pensions at age 46 for members of the Home Front Command, the large personnel surplus, the swollen command headquarters, the grandiose projects, the delegations sent abroad, the athletics programs, the cars for low-ranking officers at the Tel Aviv defense headquarters.”

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