Bye bye, rabbi?
Hebrew Media Review

Bye bye, rabbi?

The corruption scandal around a prominent scholar grows, as do calls for his trial

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto (photo credit: Mosdot Shuva Israel/Flash90)
Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto (photo credit: Mosdot Shuva Israel/Flash90)

The corruption scandal that broke early Thursday, involving a top cop and a famous rabbi, gets even more space in Friday’s Hebrew papers.

The rumor focuses around whether influential rabbi Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto bribed Menashe Arviv, the head of Israel’s anti-corruption force.

The headline on Israel Hayom quotes Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who goes after the rabbi in the center of the case: “Put Rabbi Pinto on trial.” Inside, the paper quotes the minister urging law enforcement to go ahead with the trial of Rabbi Pinto, who was arrested in 2012 on bribery charges — for trying to bribe another senior police officer. “Any attempt to close this case is inappropriate and wrong, and it needs to investigate the people who are suspected of receiving a bribe. We have to do it, and if you can actually discover they accepted a bribe, then we will put them on trial,” Aharonovitch said.

Included in Israel Hayom’s seven pages of coverage is an article that discusses Rabbi Pinto’s point of view and is summed up in an unattributed quote as its headline, “Bribes? The police needed help — and got it.” In the article, Rabbi Pinto’s defenders state that he is just a form of Jewish charity, helping out thousands of families, some of whom just happen to be cops. An aide to Pinto told the paper, “It’s only a bribe if Pinto asked for something — and he didn’t.”

The front page of Yedioth Ahronoth has a combative theme with the witness’s statement facing off against Arviv. The witness, a real estate developer and Pinto follower, says: “Arviv would call me: ‘My brother, I need your help. Fix me up.’ ” However, Arviv strikes out at the rabbi, “Pinto is trying to frame me. These statements were investigated in the past and found to be lies.”

The story is front-page news over in Haaretz and spurs the editors to call Pinto to trial. The paper calls it a mistake for Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to postpone the prosecution of Pinto until the investigation into Arviv has concluded. Aside from denying the public the right to know what occurred, the move allows Pinto’s people to play the system and let Pinto turn state’s evidence as a move to avoid prosecution. The paper believes there is enough evidence to bring Pinto to trial. “At the age of 40, he has become one of the most important people in Israel. He has a right to fight to prove his innocence with all the means at his disposal.”

Maariv gives the least amount of space to the scandal, but reports that Arviv is planning to return to work next week, once the investigation has concluded. Aside from his potential work schedule, the article also includes a strong denial from Arviv: “I have never taken a bribe. Neither I, nor my family. Rabbi Pinto is trying to frame me.”

Meet with a king

In a surprise move, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Amman, Jordan, on Thursday to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah. As Israel Hayom reports, the two discussed how to keep the Israeli/Jordanian border safe as well as Jordan’s agreement to an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley.

However, the official statement from the Jordanian side avoided all mention of the valley: “The meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu made light of the desire of both parties. The King is working on achieving real progress that meets the aspirations of the Palestinian people and at the same time protects the interests of Jordan.”

While the West Bank has been the focus of the peace talks, Gaza and Hamas are coming back into the picture — and not in a good way. Maariv reports that the defense establishment is worried that the cease-fire that was achieved after Operation Defensive Shield is dissolving. The paper reports that, since the beginning of January, 17 rockets have been fired at Israel. Defense officials are perturbed that Hamas may be losing control and, even though it does not want an escalation, it may occur anyway.

Haaretz columnist Amos Harel also writes about the escalation in Gaza, calling it a “Countdown to another Gaza operation.” Harel warns that if Hamas doesn’t do anything to stop the rocket fire, Israel will have no choice but to respond. To boot, the amount of rockets fired over the past few days increases the likelihood of a response. “The Israeli government can exercise restraint when it comes to just one or two rockets a week, particularly if they fall on unpopulated areas. Daily rocket fire renews the tension felt by residents in the area and prompts calls for a resolute response.”

Finally, although most of the front-page landscape was dedicated to Rabbi Pinto and his scandals, Yedioth gives some space to take aim at Netanyahu’s possible financial missteps. The paper reports that State Comptroller Joseph Shapira will look into reports that Netanyahu held an undeclared account in the Isle of Jersey, but will do so only with Netanyahu’s permission. The account in question was open from 1999-2003; for the majority of this period, Netanyahu was a private citizen. However, there are questions as to whether Netanyahu reported the account when he became finance minister in 2002. Netanyahu’s office issued a statement on the account, saying: “The account was reported and transparent.”

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