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Guilty or not guilty — Israeli papers wonder about a post-Liberman verdict landscape

Avigdor Liberman at a Knesset meeting on November 4. (photo credit: Flash90)
Avigdor Liberman at a Knesset meeting on November 4. (photo credit: Flash90)

After years of investigation, rumor, and finally, a legal prosecution, Wednesday’s verdict in Avigdor Liberman’s trial for breach of trust and fraud (spoiler: not guilty, but of course the press didn’t know that when the papers were put to bed) sees all other news pushed to the back pages as writers discuss what the outcome will do to Israeli politics.

Haaretz, referring to the allegations that have dogged Liberman for a long time, headlines its coverage “The 15-year-old question.” Yedioth Ahronoth provides an infographic explaining the consequences of various outcomes, but then cites Likud and Yisrael Beytenu sources declaring they will see the embattled former foreign minister back at his post come what may. Maariv gives the trial Pages 1 and 2, and Yisrael Hayom points out that one of the judges, Hagit Kalmanovich, had in 2012 sentenced a key figure in this trial, Ambassador to Latvia Ze’ev Ben Aryeh, to four months in jail for obstruction of justice.

Eini-one else?

While the papers’ collective attention is on Liberman, they also managed to report on some other news, including the abrupt resignation of Histadrut labor federation leader Ofer Eini. “I’ve done all I can,” Eini is quoted by Israel Hayom as his reason for his resignation. The announcement shocked Israel’s largest labor union, prompting one source to tell the paper, “He abandoned us in a critical moment.”

Over in Maariv, Shalom Yerushalmi is surprised by the resignation but also somewhat dubious. In a piece titled “Lost the power,” he asks why a chairman who was elected in 2012 for five years to represent hundreds of thousands workers leaves only after a third of his term. While Eini said he wanted to spend time at home, Yerushalmi isn’t impressed. “Blessed is the man who believes that a person like Ofer Eini going to become a pensioner at age 55 and go fishing everyday at the Jaffa Port.”

While Ofer Eini decided to quit, Upper Nazareth mayor Shimon Gaspo is refusing to take the same route despite being investigated for another bribery incident. Haaretz reports that the mayor, who has already been indicted in a different bribery case, was questioned by police and placed under house arrest for the latest charges, which stem from Gaspo preventing the closure of an event hall despite it lacking the proper permits. Despite the indictment, he was reelected in last month’s municipal elections.

Barely talking about peace

The visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Israel hasn’t been as successful as some had hoped. Yedioth reports that Kerry has not been able to calm tensions between Israel and the Palestinians at the peace talks. “One step forward, two steps back,” reads the headline, which gives a good indication of how the peace talks are going. The paper states that instead of calming both sides down, Kerry’s visit has instead become about both sides trying to blame each other for the tension. Maybe Kerry will have more success when he meets separately with Netanyahu and Abbas on Wednesday morning.

During that meeting with Netanyahu the topic of Iran will probably come up. Haaretz reports that despite the recent discussion in the media about Iranian sanctions, the differences between Israel and the United States on Iran are shrinking. Sources told the paper the Israel would accept some of the American concessions on Iran as long as tough sanctions were still in place. The next rounds of nuclear talks are set to begin on Thursday in Geneva, where the paper expects a possible agreement could emerge.

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