Cleaning house
Hebrew media review

Cleaning house

Scandal rocks the Jewish Home party; optimism in the West Bank; and a possible breakthrough for coalition talks?

Jewish Party leader Naftali Bennett with party member Nissan Slomiansky in February 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Jewish Party leader Naftali Bennett with party member Nissan Slomiansky in February 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Private detectives, money, and politics dominate the Hebrew press on Tuesday with police announcing they are looking into charges that Jewish Home’s No. 3, Nissan Slomiansky, purchased votes for himself in his party’s primary.

Israel Hayom gives the story the most coverage and channels its inner Warren Zevon with its headline, “Bennett, the detective, and Slomiansky: Police open an investigation.” Inside it reveals how Bennett, suspicious of Slomiansky’s high placing in the primaries, hired a private detective who recorded an associate of Slomiansky stating that he received $50,000, delivered in cigarette cartons.

The paper lays out how complicated and far-reaching the scandal could be as the list of those involved includes a Shas operative, David Ezra, who also helped Slomiansky for a fee. Also mentioned is a former Jewish Home politician, Zevulun Orlev, who stated that Bennett had tried to take him down with a private detective but failed.

Yedioth Ahronoth focuses its coverage on the money and prints large sections of the transcripts that deal with how much Slomiansky allegedly paid. Highlights include that it cost NIS 160,000 (about $43,000) for four thousand votes and party associate Avihai Amarusi stating that, “If you want to be a Knesset member, you need to pay.”

Maariv includes in its coverage an article dedicated to Slomiansky, who denies all the charges. “This is a plot aimed at preventing me from becoming a government minister,” he said, “these things never happened, they are completely untrue.”

Wrong-way tickets

Haaretz is the only paper that doesn’t give front-page coverage to Slomiansky. Instead it leads with the story that Israel secretly returned 1,000 refugees to North Sudan. The paper reports that Israel secretly repatriated the asylum-seekers via a third country, which Haaretz didn’t name to protect the Africans who traveled that route. According to the article, Israel hid the movement of refugees from the United Nations. North Sudan is listed as an enemy state by Israel and refugees face retaliation by the North Sudanese government. Israel stated that the refugees returned voluntarily, but the UN rejected this claim, saying that being repatriated while in prison does not meet the criteria of voluntary return.

Two-front optimism

It has been a tense week in the West Bank but Maariv reports that the IDF is optimistic that situation will calm down and there won’t be a third intifada. The paper writes, “Soldiers acted with restraint,  and despite protests that raged over the death of a prisoner who died in an Israeli jail, they didn’t get out of control.” The paper also credits Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for trying to prevent an outbreak of violence, “Ever since the words ‘third intifada’ were in the air Abu Mazen [Abbas] tried to calm the situation.”

While Israel is cautiously optimistic about the situation in the West Bank, the papers seem to be giddy over the successful test of a new long-range missile defense shield, “Arrow 3.” Yedioth dedicates a full page to the test of the system, in which a missile was launched out of the atmosphere in order to intercept a long-range missile. Monday’s test was the first for the system and it only tested the missile, not its ability to intercept. Yedioth provides a complete rundown on the missile that was fired: it’s six meters long, weighs about two tons, and costs about a million dollars (per missile).

A stolen computer is generally not news, unless it is stolen from the house of someone who works in the Prime Minister’s Office. Israel Hayom reports that the laptop, a briefcase, a radio, and a wallet were taken despite the presence of a security system  with cameras. Adding insult to robbery, the home had been previously burgled and a laptop stolen in that incident as well.

Coalition condition

It has been over a month since national elections in Israel and Maariv reports that Likud may be closer to finally assembling a coalition. Sources in both Likud and Jewish Home are stating that an understanding has been reached about the drafting the ultra-Orthodox. The agreement, which would see ultra-Orthodox men drafted at the age of 21, removes an obstacle to both Jewish Home and Yesh Atid joining the government. Likud seems so confident in the move that it has already informed Shas that it won’t receive the Interior or Housing ministries.

As the coalition talks progress, the bond between Yesh Atid and Jewish Home looks solid, so solid in fact that according to Haaretz, Yair Lapid canceled a tour that party members were to take with a left-wing Zionist group out of fear of offending Jewish Home. The tour with the Geneva Initiative was meant to take in Jerusalem, parts of the West Bank, and the separation fence. Lapid suggested in his statement that the reason had to do with the alliance with Jewish Home, “At present, [we] cannot go on a tour with an organization that supports the division of Jerusalem.” Haaretz points out that only a week earlier the same tour was given to members of Shas.

In the opinion pages of Maariv, Ben-Dror Yemini writes that the Palestinians are again missing another opportunity. Yemini begins his piece by attacking anyone who attacks another on the basis of ethnicity. He mentions attacks by Jewish youths against Arabs in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and calls them unforgivable. He then goes on to say that even though Israel moved to the center in the last election, it will still not tolerate Palestinian violence. He warns that if an intifada breaks out this year it will only move Israelis back to the right and that violence won’t advance peace — “it will make it that much longer until it is achieved.”

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