The Hebrew dailies are all abuzz on Friday with news of the amended indictment against former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman. The journalistic attention is focused on the recently ousted deputy foreign minister (and former No. 2 in the Yisrael Beytenu party), Danny Ayalon, and his addition to the prosecution’s witness list. To paraphrase all papers: Hell hath no fury like that of a deputy foreign minister scorned.
Yedioth Ahronoth’s article headline quotes Ayalon defending himself: “This is not revenge. I simply was not ready to lie.” The article explains that the indictment, which is expected to be filed on Sunday, has Ayalon as the star witness in the prosecution’s case. At the center of the indictment, which Yedioth calls “the smoking gun,” are two meetings that Liberman instructed Ayalon to participate in to promote Ze’ev Ben Aryeh, a diplomat who was accused of providing favors for Liberman in his legal battles.
Aside from providing a short profile on Ayalon, Maariv includes an opinion piece by legal professor Suzy Navot, who compares the two drafts of the looming indictment. The main difference between the two indictments is the role that Liberman had in pushing for the promotion of Ben Aryeh — to ambassador to Latvia, an appointment that ultimately did not go ahead. “The amended indictment includes suspected ‘active’ involvement in the appointment issue,” Navot writes, “whereas the previous indictment ascribed only passive involvement.”
Israel Hayom’s front-page features the Liberman scandal, but focuses more on who will get the spoils of the upcoming election — specifically, the control of the key government ministries. The paper reports that in a closed conversation with key party members, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he expects that “the three top ministries will stay in the hands of Likud-Beytenu.” Those top three ministries are the Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, and the Finance Ministry. Israel Hayom reports that former IDF chief Moshe Ya’alon is the front-runner to replace the retiring Ehud Barak as defense minister.
While Likud-Beytenu is planning its election after-party, Haaretz has an interview with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, where he expresses his frustration with the current status. Citing the lack of diplomatic progress and the fiscal issues facing the Palestinian Authority, Abbas expressed his desire for progress. He told the paper that if he didn’t see any progress after the Israeli elections, he would call Netanyahu and tell him, “My dear friend, Mr. Netanyahu, I am inviting you to the Muqata’a [the Palestinian presidential compound]. Sit in this chair instead of me, take the keys, and be responsible for the Palestinian Authority.”
Will the Liberman indictment or the Likud’s eyeing of government ministries help them or hurt them on election day? According to polls in Maariv and Yedioth, the answer is a resounding “maybe.” Maariv’s poll shows no change at the top for Likud-Beytenu which holds steady at 37 seats in the next Knesset. Shelly Yachimovich’s Labor Party loses two seats, according to the paper, with 18 seats. Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party picks up one seat and is projected to have 13. Shas holds steady at 11, followed by Livni’s Hatnua (The Movement) and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid with 9 and 8 seats, respectively.
Yedioth’s poll shows a different story. The big losers in its poll are Likud-Beytenu, which has 33 seats, down from 37. Labor and Jewish Home are about the same as the Maariv poll, with 17 and 12 respective seats. The Yedioth poll keeps Shas at 11 seats, but also projects that Yesh Atid and Hatnua will be on equal footing with 11 seats each.
Shas leader Aryeh Deri made some waves on Thursday when he put Likud-Beytenu in his crosshairs. Israel Hayom reports that the newly reinstated Shas leader commented, “Likud-Beytenu has become arrogant and smug and represents only white people and Russians.” Deri then pointed to Moshe Kahlon, a prominent Sephardi member of the party, and inferred that he was forced out for racial reasons. Responding to the charge, Kahlon said, “I suggest that Deri find another gimmick and if he decides to use my name, he should at least say things that are true.”
Disputes, labor and legal
Haaretz reports on two employees demonstrating in Dimona over severance pay from the soon-to-be-closing Kitan plant. The demonstration, which included burning tires, began with 14 workers. However, only two held out; the management had reached agreements with the other 12. At the heart of the matter was the amount of severance pay that the management would provide the workers — 120% or 170% of their salary. No word has been announced on when an agreement is expected with the two employees.
Israel Hayom reports on the drama at the High Court of Justice-turned-wrestling ring yesterday during the hearing on the recent disqualification of Hanin Zoabi of the Balad party in the upcoming elections. Once the hearing was completed, a shouting match between Zoabi supporters and right-wing demonstrators took place. The shouting escalated with right-wing demonstrators yelling, “Terrorist — go to Syria,” at Zoabi. The paper reports that the confrontation almost came to blows, but the security guards intervened and broke up the melee.
Finally, Yedioth reports on a new question being raised in the eternal jock vs nerd debate: Which one makes a better IDF warrior? The article reports that with the recent technological innovation in the IDF, combat units are not the only elite units anymore. An armored corps officer put it perfectly, “In another 30 years, which do you think the IDF chief of staff will want — paratroopers or cyber experts?” Yair Cohen, the former commander of the IDF’s 8200 unit, made the case for cyber soldiers. “A cyber soldier can create a very powerful attack on his own.”