Hebrew media review

Gabi goes down

Police recommendation to indict the former army chief sends shockwaves through the press, which is quick to call for the probes to go even deeper

Gabi Ashkenazi, left, speaking to Ehud Barak at Defense Ministry headquarters in 2010. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry/Flash90)
Gabi Ashkenazi, left, speaking to Ehud Barak at Defense Ministry headquarters in 2010. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry/Flash90)

Just a few years ago, Gabi Ashkenazi was looking forward to retiring from his post as the army’s top dog, trading in his olive uniform for a suit, and settling into a life of battling political foes from the Knesset instead of actual foes on the battlefield.

On Wednesday, though, as the dust settled around the news that the police had recommended he stand trial on criminal charges, he instead was likely looking forward to settling into a life of fighting to stay out of jail.

All three major dailies play the bad news for Ashkenazi and his posse high. Only tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth chooses bloody blood over bad blood, featuring a screengrab of the last moments of Jewish US-born journalist Steven Sotloff splashed across its front page in a less than tasteful display of the Islamic State beheading above the Ashkenazi story.

Haaretz and Israel Hayom let loose not only with the details of the complicated case — which basically involves mud-slinging, spying and other dirty deeds, allegedly at Ashkenazi’s behest, at the top level of army brass amid a succession battle for his post after he left it in 2011 — but with a barrel-full of commentaries from writers wanting to weigh in on what, if the attorney-general accepts the police recommendation, will be the highest level indictment in the army’s history.

Several of the commentaries seem convinced that Ashkenazi has a good chance of escaping unscathed, but Haaretz’s Amos Harel writes that as more details emerge, the story may just get more sordid.

“Before we even get to the decision on the indictment, we are still waiting for the recordings: Thousands of hours of conversations, some of them secret and personal, that were documented in the army chief of staff’s bureau. Even if the criminal side is closed in the end, its reasonable to assume that the recordings and transcripts will be published in the press — and from there it can be very uncomfortable for Ashkenazi and his people,” he writes.

More than that, the paper’s Gidi Weitz notes that a number of higher-ups in the prosecutor’s office who previously looked at the case and decided there was nothing there will have some serious explaining to do.

“Why did they stand against everything else and stubbornly refuse to listen to the chief military prosecutor and open an investigation against Ashkenazi and his cronies? Why did they so staunchly oppose delving deeply into the falsehoods that characterized the years of Ashkenazi as the chief of staff?” he asks, amid a litany of other questions.

Israel Hayom’s Dan Margalit cites Haaretz’s Weitz, and writes that with the police’s work done, it is now up to the men in suits to get their hands dirty in the search for veritas.

“The final verdict in the intermediate stage is complicated: to me [the police work] was good, but not medal-worthy,” he writes. “[Now] a new chapter opens. It has two fronts: to pressure the the reluctant and refusing state prosecutor to go back and get down to probe the truth, and mostly to dissuade him from trimming the police recommendation to put Ashkenazi’s people on trial. A long way to go.”

Writing about Steven Sotloff, the US journalist beheaded by Islamic State terrorists in a video released Tuesday night, Yedioth concentrates on his Jewish heritage.

The article, released while his Israeli connection was still being kept under wraps, quotes a prisoner who was held with him saying that Sotloff observed some Jewish traditions while being held by the bloodthirsty group in the Syrian desert, though he kept his Jewishness secret.

“A hostage who was kept with Sotloff and freed told Yedioth yesterday that in the last year, Sotloff managed to fast on Yom Kippur, even though his guards, who knew nothing of his Jewishness, found out,” the paper reports.

“He told them he was sick and didn’t want to eat, even though they gave us eggs that day,” the former hostage is quoted as saying. “It seemed that he prayed secretly toward Jerusalem. He would look where the Muslims were praying and slightly change the angle.”

While Israel Hayom devotes 13 pages to the Ashkenazi scandal, Haaretz confines itself to two pages, giving ample real estate instead to its bread and butter topic of diplomacy. The paper reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reverse the decision to appropriate nearly 1,000 acres of land in the West Bank south of Jerusalem, amid other recriminations from Washington and other quarters.

The paper’s Yossi Sarid wonders what happened to the country’s new “diplomatic horizon,” employing the tired analogy of Israeli politicians as snot-nosed brats to scold them for being a bunch of yes-men.

“‘How good it is to get back to routine,’ the prime minister and cabinet ministers said. Tzipi the child cried and protested, but for the time being has not thought of getting up and leaving the classroom. Yair the kid indeed doesn’t say a word, but everyone knows he’s not happy. He stays and sits quietly, since his ass is made for sitting,” Sarid writes.

In Israel Hayom, Nadav Shragai draws attention to what he calls a “quiet intifada” taking place in Jerusalem.

“It’s quiet because the media isn’t telling you about it,” he writes. “Gaza, Islamic State and the Golan are certainly important issues, but in the meantime, without us giving our opinion on it, Jerusalem is being divided. Thousands of incidents of attacks on Jews, stone throwing, fireworks shootings and Molotov cocktail tossing at Jews on the seam lines; dozens of cases of attacks on Arabs by Jews; and also a trickle of shootings within Jerusalem, and it’s only being reported on the margins of the news.”

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