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Hebrew media review

Judge and be judged

A Supreme Court candidate is investigated for sexual impropriety, as the Hebrew papers smell a cover-up

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Nazareth District Court head, Judge Yizhak Cohen (screen capture: Channel 2)
Nazareth District Court head, Judge Yizhak Cohen (screen capture: Channel 2)

Scandalized by the attorney general’s instruction to open a criminal investigation against the head of the Nazareth District Court on sexual harassment allegations, the Hebrew newspapers on Friday trace the fall of Judge Yitzhak Cohen, whose candidacy for the Supreme Court was revoked due to the accusations.

Yedioth Ahronoth points to sexual harassment allegations against the judge, which were filed two years ago by a prosecutor who worked under Cohen, but whose claims were never investigated.

The paper reports that a different woman — who is related to the judge — has already been questioned by police, but her testimony has exceeded the statute of limitations. Three other women, some of them court employees, are set to testify next week, it reports, after which Cohen will likely be summoned to an interrogation under warning. The women are expected to say the judge touched them inappropriately and made unwanted romantic overtures, the paper continues.

The prosecutor who, two years ago, had filed the initial complaint with the state attorney has refused to be questioned.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, in addition to striking Cohen’s name from the list of candidates for the Supreme Court, is expected to order an investigation into why the testimony against Cohen two years ago never reached the attorney general, reports Yedioth.

“If there was whitewashing and a cover-up, that is unacceptable,” Livni said. However, according to a legal source cited in the paper, the evidence presented then was not substantial enough to call for a full police investigation.

In an op-ed for the paper, Tova Zimuki charges the state attorney with covering up for Cohen, emphasizing the thoroughness of sexual crime investigations when accusations are hurled at politicians, such as presidential candidates Silvan Shalom and Meir Sheetrit.

“Judge Cohen’s affair proves if you are ‘one of us,’ the prosecution won’t hurry to open an investigation. But if you are a politician, they will travel to Guatemala to pressure a complainant to press charges.”

Israel Hayom reports that, in addition to the sexual impropriety accusations, the judge is suspected of tax offenses and fraud.

An unnamed source “close to the family,” tells the paper that the judge has closed himself off in his home in Poriya, and refuses to address the allegations. “We are stunned by the accusations against him,” the source said, adding that “members of the nuclear family are convinced of his innocence and are supporting him.” The source maintained the entire affair was fabricated in order to disqualify the judge from running for the Supreme Court.

Over in Haaretz, the paper reports that the probe will investigate whether the judge’s deputy — as well as other judges — knew about the allegations and did not report it.

Livni pledges to deal with the case “with the utmost severity,” and tells the paper: “The court system must be more correct, more right, more moral than any other system — only in this way can it uphold the public trust.”

In digging up the dirt on the judge, both Haaretz and Yedioth report on the judge’s five books of erotic poetry, written under a pen name. Haaretz adds that, during a court proceeding several years ago, Cohen turned to the court typist to ask her whether she had recorded something said in the courtroom. “I didn’t think it was necessary,” was the response, to which the judge responded: “At home with your husband you can think, but not here in my courtroom.” Judges who worked with Cohen described him as affable, and said they were shocked at the accusations leveled against him, it reports.

Meanwhile, reports on US President Barack Obama’s September 10 announcement on the American strategy to combat the Islamic State continue to receive ample coverage in the Hebrew papers, as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address on Thursday.

US President Barack Obama delivers a prime-time address from the Cross Hall of the White House on September 10, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Saul Loeb, Pool)
US President Barack Obama delivers a prime-time address from the Cross Hall of the White House on September 10, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Saul Loeb, Pool)

With regard to Obama, Yedioth’s Alon Pinkas writes: “It was the speech he didn’t want to give, on a subject he didn’t want to deal with, on a region he is entirely sick of. One doesn’t need to analyze the content of his speech to understand this. It was enough to gaze at the severe expression on the president’s face and the sadness and frustration in his eyes.”

“The US campaign will be evaluated according to three parameters: how effective the airstrikes are; whether the Arab countries will really take part in the operation; and — most importantly — whether the escalation’s potential will be realized,” writes Pinkas.

Haaretz references the prime minister’s position in its editorial, and charges that the Israeli leader is using the Islamic State threat to avoid brokering a peace accord with the Palestinians.

“There is no doubt that Israel, too, must examine the implications of this new threat. At the same time, there’s no need to panic or spread alarm, two things that Benjamin Netanyahu has enhanced in recent years to an art form.”

Haaretz continues: “The cabinet hasn’t seen fit yet to respond to Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy chairman of Hamas’s political bureau, who said there’s nothing wrong with negotiations with Israel. Instead, the cabinet is continuing in its efforts to compare Hamas to the Islamic State, thus making it harder for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to advance the peace process.

“The prime minister has declared his desire for Israel to become part of the international and Arab coalition, which strives to combat the radical organization. Netanyahu is wrong if he believes the world’s fear of IS will bury the need to negotiate an agreement with the Palestinians. Solving the conflict is the burning issue on Israel’s table. We must not let Netanyahu run away from it,” writes Haaretz.

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