Ehud Olmert’s worst week ever
Hebrew Media Review

Ehud Olmert’s worst week ever

Suits, cigars, and money -- Shula Zaken speaks about the ex-PM's corruption and the papers jump all over it

Former aide to Ehud Olmert, Shula Zaken, outside a Tel Aviv court on Thursday, May 15. Zaken testified against Olmert and was given 11 months in prison for her role in the Holyland affair (photo credit: Motti Kimchi/Pool/Flash90)
Former aide to Ehud Olmert, Shula Zaken, outside a Tel Aviv court on Thursday, May 15. Zaken testified against Olmert and was given 11 months in prison for her role in the Holyland affair (photo credit: Motti Kimchi/Pool/Flash90)

If Ehud Olmert is writing a memoir, it would be safe to say that the chapter about this week would be titled “Worst Week Ever.” After already having been sentenced to six years in prison, Thursday saw the plea deal go through for his former aide, Shula Zaken, and she started singing about her boss’s crimes. Luckily for the public, the press was in the courtroom and Friday’s papers are jam-packed with all the details of Olmert’s confirmed and alleged misdeeds.

The front page of Israel Hayom quotes Zaken asserting just how involved Olmert was in his corruption: “Ehud counted the money with his own hands, and purchased suits and cigars.” On the inside pages, the paper reprints large portions of Zaken’s testimony and takes the unusual step of highlighting — in bright yellow — the key parts, just to make sure readers don’t skim over them. The highlighted parts include how Zaken told of counting the money, ordering tailors to come to Olmert’s office to order new suits, and facilitating the bribe-giving sessions between Shmuel Dachner and Yossi Olmert, Ehud’s brother.

Yedioth Ahronoth reprints Zaken’s testimony (albeit without the highlights) and also includes in its two-page spread what exactly Zaken gets out of the deal. For her testimony, she will only be sentenced to 11 months in jail for accepting 150,000 shekels in bribes and money laundering. She will also have to pay a 25,000-shekel fine and forfeit 75,000 shekels. For her part, Zaken is relieved to be able “to return to my husband and kids.”

Zaken’s testimony is top news over in Haaretz as well, and Amir Oren writes an analysis piece about how the Zaken testimony hurts Olmert. Oren writes that the main thing it does is damage Olmert’s chance in an appeal, since her statements under oath directly place Olmert in the middle of the bribery. Oren writes: “Olmert’s spell is broken; she is no longer afraid of him. Let’s see him manage now with Zaken not on his side, but against him, and with recordings.”

Security issues

While the front pages of the papers are dedicated to Olmert’s ongoing criminal problems, the inner pages deal with security issues.

Haaretz reports that two Palestinian youths were killed on Thursday near Ramallah during Nakba Day demonstrations. (“Nakba” is an Arabic term that means “catastrophe,” and is used to reference the establishment of the State of Israel.)

While the IDF says soldiers fired rubber bullets at the soldiers, Palestinians contend that the soldiers were using live fire. Aside from the two killed, 11 others were injured in the clashes.

Yedioth reports that two soldiers were expelled from the army after they posted on Facebook that they wouldn’t evacuate Jewish settlements. Although the conscripts were quickly expelled from the army, the punishment may not have had the desired effect. The post had already received almost 1,500 “Likes,” and other soldiers were posting similar messages. The IDF spokesperson responded to the posts that “use of social media for protest is not acceptable and violates the basic principles of the IDF.”

While the IDF may be fighting against its own soldiers, it will apparently also have less equipment to fight against naval threats. Haaretz reports that Germany has decided to cancel a contract to allow Israel to buy German missile boats at a discounted rate. The German government cited the breakdown in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as the reason for the cancellation.

The boats were intended to be used to protect Israel’s natural-gas activity in the Mediterranean Sea. According to the paper, Israel was to receive a 30% discount on the boats, worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Germany said that Israel is still welcome to buy the boats, but at full price.

Over at Israel Hayom, the paper reports on Israel spying/not spying on the United States. While in Israel on Thursday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that he didn’t know of any Israeli spies and doesn’t believe the reports of extensive Israeli spying against the US. Moshe Ya’alon, speaking alongside Hagel, said: “As defense minister, I am not allowed to spy on the US.”

Knesset conundrums

Readers of the Hebrew Media Review over the past weeks will have noticed that Israel Hayom has embarked on a campaign against a Knesset bill that would outlaw free newspapers (read: Israel Hayom).

And Friday was no different. Hard-line Likud party member Moshe Feiglin comes to the aid of Israel Hayom and attacks rival Yedioth Ahronoth by saying, “Have you no shame?” Feiglin goes on to say that if the law weren’t so serious, he would be “rolling with laughter.” Feiglin says that the bill is an attempt to defend a specific interest and not the public good. He doesn’t care that the paper is very pro-Bibi, either. “So what? Then don’t read it.”

Yedioth ignores Israel Hayom’s attacks and instead publishes a piece about the upcoming presidential election (which is determined by the Knesset, not the public). Yair Lapid, head of Yesh Atid, told his party that they are free to vote for any of the presidential candidates — except Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.

Why no BB-E? Because the Labor Party candidate didn’t support the draft equality bill the first time it was presented. As the paper points out, though, the voting is done by secret ballot — so Yesh Atid Knesset members could actually vote for Ben-Eliezer without anyone finding out.

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