Corruption runs deep in the papers on Thursday as a gag order gets lifted on an internal police probe related to two senior Israel Police officials — the heads of the internal investigations division and the unit responsible for investigating public corruption and criminal organizations. The man at the center of the probe is Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, a charismatic and well-connected Kabbalah rabbi.
The gag order was lifted at midnight and the four main dailies run it as their main headline. Yedioth Ahronoth says the story started in the courtyard of a famous Israeli rabbi’s home and has spread to the police, the US Congress, the FBI, “and perhaps even the tables of power.” Pinto, the paper explains, is rabbi to the stars and politicians, and his personal fortune amounts to an estimated NIS 75 million. To say the least, the story has a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous.
According to Haaretz, the investigation hinges on information given to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein which claims that businessmen affiliated with Pinto tried to bribe Menashe Arviv, the director of the public corruption investigation unit known as Lahav 433.
Israel Hayom reports that Arviv met with police chief Yohanan Danino and requested a leave of absence. The paper quotes a police spokesperson saying that Danino acquiesced to Arviv’s request and appointed Commander Mani Yitzhaki as his temporary replacement.
Maariv reports extensively on some of the details of the case, including claims that affiliates of Pinto attempted to slip hundreds of thousands of dollars to police officials in exchange for information about investigations into his activity. It reports that the Justice Ministry emphasized that at this stage Arviv is still not under investigation.
(For complete coverage of the corruption scandal, read The Times of Israel’s story.)
Elsewhere in the news, the press still has more to say about the Moshe Ya’alon-John Kerry brouhaha that dominated the papers on Wednesday. Maariv reports that the reason for Ya’alon’s outburst criticizing Kerry’s involvement in the peace talks was because the US is enlisting the help of reservist IDF generals to act as a lobby to sway Israeli public opinion in favor of giving up the Jordan Valley. According to the paper, this “crude American interference” in Israel’s security establishment is “crossing a thin red line,” and prompted Ya’alon to unleash on Kerry.
Israel Hayom again takes the fight to Yedioth Ahronoth with an op-ed by Haim Shain, who says that Yedioth betrayed the state of Israel by publishing Ya’alon’s comments.
“A publication like this in full knowledge that it would harm the foreign affairs of the State of Israel conveys the message that ratings considerations are more important than the welfare of the state,” he writes.
He rants about how the US mistakenly thinks that Israel is not an independent state and is exerting “tremendous pressure” on the Jewish state. He calls the White House’s criticism of Ya’alon’s comments a “brutal assault” aimed at increasing pressure on Israel.
Haaretz suffices to report Kerry’s statement at a press conference in Kuwait that “no man will deter me from continuing to try to advance peace.” (Not really helping quash that “messianic” comment.) The paper also quotes statements by President Shimon Peres, who defended the US’s role in the peace talks, saying “the US wants to allow us and the Palestinians to live in peace.”
Its editorial, however, asks the question of whether Ya’alon is expressing the opinion of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The apology that Ya’alon composed with Netanyahu and the lukewarm announcement from the prime minister, in which he said disagreements with the United States are always substantive and not personal, are not very convincing,” the paper writes.
“What does Netanyahu want? Ya’alon’s remarks require the prime minister to clarify to the people of Israel, the Palestinians and the Americans whether he intends to seriously try and end the conflict, or whether he stands behind the content of what his defense minister said – because if the latter is the case, there is no purpose to negotiating at all.”
Haaretz also runs a piece claiming that Netanyahu stashed funds in a Jersey (Channel Islands) tax haven bank. While holding accounts in such areas is permissible under Israeli law, the Israel Tax Authority discourages the practice, and all funds in those accounts must be declared. Netanyahu’s office said in response to inquiries by the paper that, “this time, too, your attempt to discredit the prime minister does not match the facts. It was an account that has not been active since 2003.”