Former prime minister Ehud Olmert is back in the spotlight, dominating the headlines for all the wrong reasons. His former chief of staff, Shula Zaken, handed over a audio recording to the police in which she claims that Olmert can be heard trying to convince her not to sign a plea deal, which could put the nail in the coffin for an obstruction of justice charge.
The Zaken tapes revelation is called a “dramatic development” by Yedioth Ahronoth, which terms the evidence a “smoking gun” proving Olmert’s guilt. The paper says that the police are expected to invite Olmert for a precautionary investigation in the coming days in order to present Zaken’s evidence to him. If the tapes have sufficient weight, they will put him on trial for obstruction of justice.
Haaretz quotes Olmert’s lawyers saying that the tapes are nothing but “lies and falsehoods” that have surfaced a week before the anticipated decision in the Holyland case. According to the paper, Zaken gave the police multiple tapes in which Olmert can be heard saying that a plea deal would harm him, and that he would take care of her and her family.
Israel Hayom notes that in order to use the information provided by Zaken, the police would need to take a dramatic step that’s never been done — arrest a former prime minister and investigate him.
Amir Oren writes in Haaretz that Olmert’s arrest would be a landmark moment in Israeli legal history: the first time a former prime minister, stripped of his immunity, would be arrested.
“Olmert has avoided custody until now, perhaps because of his former position, and perhaps because the police and the prosecution didn’t want the headache of bringing a Shin Bet-protected individual into custody,” Oren writes. If the police decide to press forward, “failure to bring Olmert in on suspicion of obstruction of justice could set a precedent for future appeals from those accused of similar crimes, who would be able to claim they are entitled to the same treatment.”
For those less interested in sordid, never-ending story of Olmert’s legal woes, Yedioth Ahronoth reports on the sordid affair of a 13-year-old Tel Aviv girl who was repeatedly gang-raped by a group of nine teens over the course of three months. While the boys, all under the age of 18, insist the whole thing was consensual, since the girl is under the age of 14 it counts as statutory rape regardless.
“We didn’t know anything,” said the father. “She simply feels like garbage,” said the mother.
On a different note, Israel Hayom reports that the Arab League’s foreign ministers met Wednesday and said that recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is not even a matter of discussion. Good thing, too, because Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the same thing a day earlier.
At the end of a meeting in Kuwait, the Arab League said in a statement that the Arab states “express our total rejection of the call to consider Israel as a Jewish state,” pledging complete support for the Palestinians and rejecting pressure on the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish nature of Israel.
For the Palestinians in Gaza, Haaretz reports that the Israeli government will permit the import of building materials for the construction of a Turkish government-funded hospital in the Hamas-controlled territory. According to the report, the decision made by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to allow the import of building materials, communications equipment and medical equipment into the Strip came just as Israeli and Turkish officials are about to sign a reconciliation deal to put the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident behind them.
The $35 million hospital, built atop the remains of a former Israeli settlement, was started in 2011 and has been constructed with materials smuggled through subterranean tunnels, the paper writes.
In another ongoing saga, Israel Hayom reports that the woman identified only as M in the sexual misconduct case against senior Likud minister Silvan Shalom filed yet another complaint with the police, this time against the polygraph technician who said she was lying.
The woman claimed that the technician fiddled with the lie-detector machine. Before the story went to press, M took two polygraph tests, the paper says. In the first she was determined to have told the truth, but in the second, in which she was asked three questions, there were elements of falsehood in two responses. Based on that, the police determined that M did not have sexual congress with Shalom.