Nearly a week later, and the Zygier affair remains the top story in the Hebrew press. Israel Hayom, initially hesitant to publish the story, sticks it in the headlines. It quotes a senior defense official telling Channel 2 that Israel “did not pursue” the Mossad agent. Rather, he claims, Zygier “died of shame.”
The paper also reports that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein was favorably considering permitting the publication of the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court’s decision in the investigation of Zygier’s death.
It also reports that the Knesset subcommittee that supervises intelligence activities decided on Sunday to launch an “intensive investigation into all the aspects of the Ben Zygier affair.” The subcommittee, it notes, is headed by Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman and includes former Shin Bet chief Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid), Naftali Bennett, MK Aryeh Deri (Shas), and MK Zeev Elkin (Likud), and will meet behind closed doors with Mossad and legal officials familiar with the affair.
Haaretz reports that Australian authorities are launching an independent investigation into Zygier’s death, and that Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has asked Israel to forward “information and explanations” concerning the incident. It reports that the state prosecutor is expected to publish the results of the probe into Zygier’s death later this week, and that MKs have called for an independent investigation into his death in Ayalon Prison two years ago.
Yedioth Ahronoth reports that Zygier’s lawyers struck a plea bargain with Israeli authorities days before he committed suicide. The deal they reached would have put the Mossad agent behind bars for between 10 to 20 years. Shortly thereafter, attorney Avigdor Feldman visited Zygier to give him an alternative legal opinion and reported last week that Zygier was in good spirits at that time.
Yedioth Ahronoth’s front page features the late Shmulik Kraus, an Israeli musical legend who died of swine flu on Sunday at the age of 77. Fellow musician Shlomo Artzi eulogizes Kraus on the front page, saying he was “one of our great composers. A total musician.”
He says that he found in Kraus “a heart-touching man and a very emotional individual.” Artzi calls Kraus one of the last “Israeli chansonniers — deep, painful and bohemian, who mixed stormy lives with creativity.”
Maariv reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to take the country to elections should coalition talks not amount to an agreement between Likud-Beytenu and the Jewish Home party.
“[Jewish Home leader Naftali] Bennett ought not pull the rope too much, because in the end it will tear,” senior Likud-Beytenu members are quoted saying. “Netanyahu is prepared to go to elections. The principle is that he won’t submit to a deal with [Yesh Atid leader Yair] Lapid.”
The PM reportedly added that he is not willing even to listen to the possibility of anything but a partnership with the ultra-Orthodox parties. “There is no situation in which Netanyahu will give up on the ultra-Orthodox,” they said. “It’s worthwhile for Bennett and Lapid to internalize this. Netanyahu is not prepared to let Lapid into the coalition before he agrees with all the natural partners” — namely, the ultra-Orthodox.
Maariv also features a lead story about the late Iranian general who was killed in an ambush in Lebanon last week, whom the paper calls “the octopus from Tehran.” It quotes Ali Nouri Zadeh, director of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London, saying that Hassan Shateri was “one of the highest ranking Quds force commanders in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.”
He noted that Shateri received as much as $200 million per year from Tehran for rebuilding Lebanon after the 2006 Second Lebanon War, which he distributed to Hezbollah’s military and political arms. With those funds, he “bribed members of parliament, journalists, and Lebanese public figures” in order to make Hezbollah a premier political power. He also “rebuilt Hezbollah’s military power, and its rocket abilities and aerial defense systems, and later coordinated the transfer of arms from Syria to Hezbollah,” according to Zadeh.
Israel Hayom’s Dan Margalit writes about the belated commencement of the trial against former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman. He writes that despite Liberman’s request that the trial be sped up, so that — should he be found not guilty — he can assume the foreign minister position sooner, unfortunately, Liberman’s trial will likely take most of 2013.
“Description of the situation is puzzling — why was Israel sentenced to manage 2013 without a foreign minister? There is no such phenomenon among Western democracies,” he says.
The ideal situation, he says, would be to loan out the Foreign Ministry to a senior Likud of Yisrael Beytenu official until Liberman’s trial ends, at which point he would assume the position and the placeholder would be given another.
“Israel deserves a full-time foreign minister, even if he or she has to work on a conditional basis. The chance that Liberman will able to return as foreign minister during the 19th Knesset’s term is no higher than 50 percent,” he says.
In light of the scoop on Netanyahu’s ice cream habits, Haaretz runs an editorial criticizing the prime minister’s expenditures. “The total lack of transparency with regard to the expenses for the prime minister’s residence — in the budget for the prime minister’s bureau no such clause even appears — still cannot mask the royalist culture that has taken root there during Netanyahu’s regime,” it writes.
“Is the State of Israel meant to fund ice cream and make-up at a monthly rate that equals a full minimum wage? Is the prime minister’s salary so low that he can’t afford to buy his own ice cream? Are we talking about total obtuseness or just stinginess for its own sake?”
It calls on the prime minister to make his residence’s budget public and let the people decide if that’s how they wants their money spent.