People are in trouble on today’s front pages — from former IDF officials who are accused in a wide-ranging army brass succession scandal, to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and his big mouth, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara who are accused of abusing a worker, to the Nowruz-celebrants of Iran, who may still be in Israel’s crosshairs over their nuclear program.
Haaretz reports that despite positive signals coming out of ongoing nuclear talks, Netanyahu has ordered the IDF to continue planning to blow Tehran’s nuclear program into so many smithereens. The information came to light in a Knesset session, during which lawmakers were informed that the IDF is spending NIS 10 billion ($2.9 billion) to prepare for such an attack.
“Some MKs asked the army’s deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, and planning directorate official Brig. Gen. Hagai Yehezkel whether they felt there was justification for investing so much money in those preparations, said the MKs present at the meetings,” the paper reports, noting that the MKs asked that their names be withheld. “The IDF representatives said the army had received a clear directive from government officials from the political branch – meaning Netanyahu and [Defense Minister Moshe] Ya’alon – to continue readying for a possible independent strike by Israel on the Iranian nuclear sites, regardless of the talks now happening between Iran and the West, the three MKs said.”
The news comes as little surprise considering the bluster that recently issued forth from Ya’alon, whose comments Monday about American weakness and the need for Israel to act on Iran alone led to a spat with Washington and – one imagines – less than comfortable phone calls between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Netanyahu, and Ya’alon and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Yedioth Ahronoth’s Sima Kadmon sums up the American position with less than diplomatic grace, calling the defense minister a, well we’ll just let her do it: “Either Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon knows something we don’t, or he is — how to put this — simply an idiot,” she writes. “That’s the only way to explain the behavior of the government’s most important minister, whose comments are liable to create a catastrophe with the most important ally Israel has.”
Israel Hayom leads off with the so-called Harpaz affair, which reared its ugly head after a year-long hiatus Wednesday with the arrest of former IDF spokesman Avi Benayahu, former top aide to former IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and the man who set the whole scandal in motion, Boaz Harpaz. The paper reports that the police will soon also grill Ashkenazi himself, as well his wife Ronit, in the wide and uberly confusing scandal.
“The new evidence that we’ve collected in the affair demands that we question the two,” a source close to the investigation tells the paper.
Commentator Dan Margalit opines that the arrests and criminal probe into the case, which involved a fight between Ashkenazi and then-defense minister Ehud Barak over the next chief of staff, is better late than never given its seriousness.
“This is the story of a fake document that could have ended in a putsch, with the army brass harming the civilian Defense Ministry; and this is the story of ugly personal spying, done against top army officers guarding their integrity who were anathema to the office of chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi; and the troubling participation of the chief of staff’s wife Ronit and communications people working for her husband; and danger to national security in the most sensitive areas, all for the inflated ego of Ashkenazi.”
In Haaretz, Amos Harel writes that the decision to jail both Weiner and Benayahu was likely intended to scare them into turning on Ashkenazi.
“The police yesterday organized for Weiner and Benayahu a double humiliation: a court hearing in front of the media and 24 hours in jail. This is a standard procedure for the investigators to try to shake Ashkenazi’s hive. Two of the people closest to him spent the first night of their lives in jail, for things they might have done for somebody else. It seems investigators think that the faith the two have in their former superiors has a limit and for certain reasons it’s possible they will agree to give up the whole story, if they can just be pressured at a lower price than a complicated court battle. There’s no doubt that the main target of the investigators is Ashkenazi himself.”
Crying over bought milk
Yedioth reports on the latest scandal rocking the prime minister, this one not about ice cream, water or flying beds but bags of milk. The paper reports that a former house manager for the Prime Minister’s Residence is suing Netanyahu and his wife Sara for a million shekels, saying he was abused during his seven years working there. The worker recalls getting woken up in the middle of the night to be scolded for buying milk in a bag instead of a carton. “We are dainty Europeans, we don’t eat so much like you all, Moroccans,” he says he was told, according to the paper.
A new Knesset bill that would outlaw free papers puts the free paper Israel Hayom on the defensive. The paper, which does little to hide its rage, calls the legislation the work of Yedioth publisher Nuni Mozes, and also scolds MK Eitan Cabel for putting the bill forward. “What is he suggesting, this socialist Cabel? To take a good product from people, ‘Israel Hayom,’ which they get for free, and make them pay.”
In Haaretz, Ari Shavit continues his drive in defense of the demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, writing that it’s an important step to making sure Ramalah contributes to peace, even if the rest of the world dismisses it. “The most basic demand directed at the Palestinians is suddenly seen as a whim. Why? Because when Mahmoud Abbas says no, many in the international community and the Israeli left cave in. They lack the courage required to stand up to the Palestinians and tell them ‘this far.’ Even when the Palestinian stance is clearly immoral, they feel an obligation to toe the line.”