The ghost of Binyamin Ben-Eliezer’s candidacy hovers above the presidential race days after his resignation, prompting four of the five remaining contenders in the race to succeed President Shimon Peres to show all their cards about their property so as to avoid suspicion of fiscal impropriety.
Former judge Dalia Dorner, MK Reuven Rivlin, Professor Dan Shechtman and former MK Dalia Itzik made public their financial holdings, including their houses and property, “in an attempt to return public trust to the election system,” Yedioth Ahronoth reports. Israel Hayom reports that the others followed Itzik’s suit after she came clean on owning a third apartment. MK Meir Sheetrit refused to disclose his holdings.
Among the properties highlighted by the papers are Itzik’s three apartments and NIS 160,000 ($46,000) worth of jewelry; Rivlin’s monthly income of NIS 25,000 ($7,000) per month as an MK, plus bonuses for being a former minister; Dorner’s monthly pension of NIS 35,000 for having served on the bench of the Supreme Court and as the IDF’s chief military justice; and Shechtman’s three houses, one in the US, worth over a million shekels apiece.
According to Israel Hayom, Sheetrit refused to disclose his worth in part because “the [property] report was filed by law to the authorities and that he got where he is thanks to his wife, Ruth Sheetrit, a businesswoman and owner of a marketing firm.” The paper notes that Forbes ranked Sheetrit among the wealthiest politicians in Israel (No. 4), with an estimated worth of NIS 57 million.
Haaretz reports that the investigation that toppled Ben-Eliezer from his perch as one of the front-running candidates for president was only opened recently, but the information that the MK received a loan from a powerful businessman was given to the police last year. According to a report from Channel 10 cited by the paper, the Tax Authority and the Israel Police declined opening an investigation into the money transfer when they received information about it from the National Fraud Investigation Unit. Haaretz notes that it is not clear who gave the order not to look into Ben-Eliezer’s financial dealings.
As the race winds down and MKs get set to vote for the 10th president of the State of Israel on Tuesday, the papers publish their predictions about which horse will lead the race. Yedioth Ahronoth explains that the parliamentarians will cast their secret ballots and if no candidate wins a majority of 61 votes, there will be a runoff between the two leaders.
Israel Hayom predicts that Rivlin will lead with about 50 votes, but that it will go to a second round where he will face off against Dorner, the runner-up. Though it doesn’t give a prediction of who will come out on top, Haaretz writes that Dorner has the support of at least five members of the Labor Party, plus five from Meretz. It reports that the candidates will spend much of the next day chinwagging and rubbing elbows at the Knesset plenum in a bid to snooker MKs to back them in the coming vote.
While the next president will soon be decided, Finance Minister Yair Lapid threatens to take down the government and send the country to elections should Israel unilaterally annex any of the West Bank. Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend Israeli sovereignty to the major West Bank settlement blocs.
“Over 21 years we gave the left a chance,” Bennett is quoted in Israel Hayom saying. “Now it’s our turn. I call on the prime minister to make the requested step, even if not the easy step — and propose a sovereignty plan: step by step, and begin by extending sovereignty over the Etzion Bloc first.”
Lapid responded to his former ally’s proposal that “radical right-wing people are pushing Israel toward crazy ideas of annexation which will bring us to the disaster known as a bi-national state.”
“I don’t know if it’s an exercise in public relations or real intent,” Lapid is quoted saying in Yedioth Ahronoth, “but we don’t intend to let this happen.”
Haaretz focuses on Lapid’s statements calling on Netanyahu to take the opposite step and put forward a map with the proposed border between an Israeli and Palestinian state. Justice Minister and top Israeli negotiator with the Palestinians Tzipi Livni made a similar call in her speech immediately thereafter.
Surprisingly, the much-vaunted prayer summit at the Vatican between President Peres, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the pope gets little attention in the papers. Pictures of the three are scattered around Haaretz but given little ink, and coverage by Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth is relegated to pages 11 and 14, respectively.