1. A “kind” defender of pedophilia (allegedly): Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman is finding himself in a heap of trouble thanks to his efforts to protect at least one accused pedophile sexual assailant and one apparently dirty restaurant.
- Litzman’s likely legal woes and him being tangled up with Malka Leifer, a teacher on the lam from Australia, led the news agenda all through Tuesday and dominate local news on Wednesday morning as well.
- Well, not the whole news agenda. In the Haredi press, the case gets little to no play,
- The story is totally absent from the front page of ultra-Orthodox papers Hamevaser and HaPeles. In Hamodia, considered an organ for Litzman, he is described as someone whom “the police are trying to take down because of his kindness.”
2. Save your outrage: Yedioth Ahronoth reports that at least so far, the affair seems to have little if any effect on the election campaign.
- A Likud source tells ToI’s Raoul Wootliff that it’s laughable to think that the party would even consider criticizing its potential coalition partner publicly, even despite the seriousness of his alleged crimes: “You think people are going to call for him to resign and say they won’t sit with him in a government a month away from elections? Save your outrage, this is politics,” the official is quoted in ToI saying mockingly.
- In the Haredi world, the backing was practically de jure. According to the Kan broadcaster, after the police recommendation was released, Litzman went to sit with the head of the Gur Hasidic sect “who gave him full backing to remain the head of the UTJ party.”
- UTJ MK Yitzhak Pindross, interviewed by Channel 12, will offer only that the affair makes him “uncomfortable,” which it seems is as close to a moral voice as one will get.
3. Why take a stand? Wootliff also notes that even on the left, while they slammed Litzman, they didn’t explicitly call for his resignation.
- Blue and White’s milquetoast denunciation of Litzman, a source tells Zman Yisrael’s Shalom Yerushalmi, is part of an overall strategy to only attack Netanyahu: “This is ‘just not Bibi.’ Do you see us arguing with [Democratic Camp candidate] Ehud Barak or [Labor leader] Amir Peretz, or even the ultra-Orthodox? What is that good for?”
- Karine Elharrar, a Yesh Atid MK, is about the only public figure to call for Litzman to step down, tweeting Wednesday that “it’s unthinkable” for him to continue in the position given the accusations against him.
- Channel 13 news reports that even if nobody is pushing for Litzman to step down, the attorney general may decide that he has to at least stop being a deputy minister even before he is indicted “given that those testifying against him work under him.”
- According to Kan, the indictment may come even before elections.
4. Commitment issues: In case anybody wasn’t sure whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party would continue to seek UTJ as a partner, the premier himself kinda lays it out in an Israel Hayom column, written in response to a front-page column the previous day demanding he commit to a right-wing government and not a unity coalition.
- “My commitment is clear: to build a strong right-wing government after elections,” Netanyahu says.
- Netanyahu does not say who his partners in such a coalition will be, though, and he claims that any vote that is not for Likud is actually a vote for Blue and White.
5. Up in arms down under: Ittay Flescher, a Jerusalem-based journalist with liberal Australian Jewish publication +61J, tells Israel Radio that Australians don’t get how Israelis can back Litzman after these accusations, citing a case of a minister who was forced to step down after receiving a bottle of wine.
- “This is causing a lot of pain and suffering among Australian Jews, who just want this to end and want justice,” he says.
- Nicole Meyer, one of Leifer’s alleged victims, tells Australia’s ABC news that she and others are relieved that the case is moving forward.
- “The potential for him to be arrested and charged for interfering in Malka Leifer’s campaign and interfering with bringing her back to Australia is very, very encouraging for us,” she says.
6. Deputy health risk: Litzman is also in hot water (but not hot enough to kill bacteria) over him apparently leaning on certain people to keep the Goldy’s delicatessen in Jerusalem open.
- Yedioth publishes a picture of Litzman holding a bag from Goldy’s on its front page like it’s a smoking gun.
- The paper needn’t have gone so far. On Goldy’s own Facebook page is a picture of Litzman “picking out tasty and healthy salads, like he does every week.”
כמו בכל שבוע סגן שר הבריאות בוחר בסלטים הטעימים והבריאים שלנו.שבת שלום ????????????
- The page also features other officials from UTJ, the Clalit HMO and United Hatzala enjoying the restaurant’s food.
- Apropo nothing, here’s a fun fact: Nathan’s Hot Dog stand on Coney Island used to hire people to stand around eating their wieners in lab coats, so people would think doctors found the frankfurters healthy. The gambit worked.
- Goldy’s says the health problems were under old management and everything is hunky dory now.
7. Of mice and ministers: Channel 13 reports that Litzman threatened officials in his office when they tried to flag the joint.
- “I’m the health minister! I’m the health minister! I carried out the dental reform! I did this and that,” one of the ministry employees quotes Litzman as having said, before offering them raises to keep their yappers shut.
- It’s not just Goldy’s either. Channel 12 reports that the Yochananoff grocery chain, which also has takeout food, is similarly gross or maybe even worse, with mice, rats, food left out and kept an unsafe temperatures.
- “There are a lot of mice here, they eat quite well here and are growing. I don’t even buy bread here anymore,” one worker is quoted saying.
8. Bad boys bad boys, what you gonna do? Police on Tuesday apologized after the media got hold of the fact that the Kan police docudrama “Jerusalem District” planted a gun in an East Jerusalem man’s house because it made for better TV.
- The police and Kan both blame the incident on the production company. Yedioth reports that Kan is considering cutting ties with the company over the affair.
- In Haaretz, which first reported the story, Nir Hasson writes that even if the affair was staged, it reveals some hard truths about how the police treat East Jerusalem Palestinians.
- “A critical look at the series will show a deep truth – not about Jerusalem and its people, but about the real approach of the Jerusalem police, as an organization and as individuals, to the city’s various population groups,” Hasson writes.
- In a piece in +972, published before the affair emerged, Aviv Tatarsky writes that nightly raids in Issawiya (where some of the docudrama take place and where the gun was “found”) “are unprecedented and nothing like I have ever witnessed in all the years I have been working in East Jerusalem.”
- Tatarsky writes that it’s not clear why the raids are ramping up and points a finger at the media for keeping silent: “Honest media reporting would have put the police in an uncomfortable position. While the press often does this in cases of police brutality towards ultra-Orthodox Jews or Ethiopian-Israelis, in Issawiya, and apart save from rare exceptions, the Israeli media has either kept silent or served as a mouthpiece for the police.”