The widening of a bribery scandal involving a popular rabbi, the police’s anti-corruption czar and an Israel-loving congressman prove more tantalizing on Sunday’s front pages than a suitcase full of unmarked nonconsecutive dollar bills.
I won’t try to recap the details of the case, which broke Thursday and is more complicated than a Mexican soap opera (Dos Muchos Pesos de Rabino Pinto), but you can read all about it here. What has the papers in a tizzy Sunday is the recommendation from the police’s internal affairs division to launch a criminal probe against its former boss, Menashe Arviv, who is suspected of taking bribes from associates of Rabbi Yoshayahu Pinto for information relating to an investigation against him, and is confirmed to be a man who jogs with a stroller, according to the same exact picture plastered across three front pages (Haaretz is the only holdout).
The papers all report that Pinto, who splits time between New York and Ashdod, is expected to testify in the investigation, though it’s not clear if he will come to Israel to do so. According to the reports, Pinto is hoping his cooperation — in which he will say that yes, he and those close to him bribed Arviv — will earn him some sort of immunity from prosecution, though he will still be charged in a case involving an attempt to bribe another senior police officer. Of course, all of this is speculation on the part of the newspapers, which have some sort of inside knowledge of the case.
Yedith Ahronoth goes so far as to preview Pinto’s testimony, which will claim that he had a close relationship with Arviv over the last year. Not so, though, those close to the cop tell the paper. “I wasn’t a follower of the rabbi,” Arviv is quoted telling his friends. “I met with him a few times, like others. A year ago, I cut off ties because I felt that the air around him was problematic and inappropriate. Those close to the rabbi tried to make contact again, but I refused.”
The paper also reports that a “well-known tycoon” was also involved in passing money to Arviv on behalf of Pinto, quoting testimony from one of Pinto’s followers who already admitted doing so.
In Israel Hayom, Dan Margalit opines that it would be wrong to let Pinto, whom he likens to a beast of a whale, get away in order to prosecute a fish like Arviv. “In practice, Pinto wants to turn state witness,” he writes. “With a deal like that comes the idea that you let the smaller fish go in order to net the leviathan. Without diminishing the severity of the ties between Pinto and Arviv — even if they are proven to be true — the rabbi is still the leviathan in this case, and Arviv is just a big fish. A big fish is still a lot, but it’s not a leviathan.”
Maariv has its own bigger fish to fry, leading off with comments by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon in which he has some not-so-nice things to say about the Americans and their Jordan Valley security plan. The paper notes, as if one could forget, that Ya’alon was the man behind some even worse comments that came out in public earlier last week, in which he called US Secretary of State John Kerry an obsessive messianic.
These new comments quoted by Maariv, in contrast, are pretty milquetoast (and nothing new), though they go to prove that while Ya’alon apologized, it seems he has not changed his mind about the Americans.
Speaking to a crowd of some 100 people at a Jerusalem college, Ya’alon said that the US and Europe “have mistaken views and don’t understand the Middle East and what goes on here.” The paper also quotes him as saying that “sensors and drones are no substitute for the physical presence of the IDF” in the Jordan Valley, a direct pushback to the reported American security plan, which he has vociferously lobbied against.
Haaretz’s editorial takes aim at Ya’alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing them of “planting land mines” all along the diplomatic process by criticizing the US and Europe, ready to blow up in Israel’s face.
“Netanyahu must understand that his position requires him to stick to a policy that looks out for Israel’s interests. He shouldn’t plant permanent land mines in the negotiation process in an attempt to find favor with the extreme right,” the paper writes.
Ya’alon may be a better fighter than a politician, just as Nobel Prize winner Dan Shechtman, whom Yedioth and others report threw his hat into the presidential race, is a better chemist than glad-hander. The papers report that Shechtman plans on being non-political in his role, instead using his genius to solve Israel’s problems.
“I think I can change things for the better in this country,” he is quoted as telling Channel 1. “I’m doing it now as well, in many areas, mostly in education, higher education and technological entrepreneurship. But I think I could do a lot more from a presidential position.”