Messages coded and clear: 9 things to know for August 30
Israel media review

Messages coded and clear: 9 things to know for August 30

Dankner’s extra year in jail sends a signal; Israelis show how pious they can be in troubling times; Julia Salazar accused of gaslighting, and a former Hitler wannabe plans a visit

Israeli businessman Nochi Dankner at the Tel Aviv District Court on July 4, 2016 (Flash90)
Israeli businessman Nochi Dankner at the Tel Aviv District Court on July 4, 2016 (Flash90)

1. A secret new IDF chief: Amid rising speculation over who will be chosen as the next head of the Israel Defense Forces, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is telling Yedioth Ahronoth that he has already made his choice.

  • The four vying for the job are Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon and Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, who were interviewed recently for the position, but Liberman is mum on who he has picked.
  • The only clue he offers is that the person is someone who cares more about victory than political consequences, which can be seen as either laudable or terrifying.
  • “I searched for someone who would talk to me in terms of decisiveness and victory. In discussions with military officials I hear many expressions such as ‘political arena’ and ‘legal ramifications.’ The most important value in my eyes is victory, not explanations,” he says.
  • Kochavi, current deputy chief of staff and a former head of the northern command, is widely seen as a front-runner for the position, which needs to be confirmed by the cabinet.

2. Dankner ruling sends a message: Just as the initial two-year jail sentence for fallen tycoon Nochi Dankner was celebrated as a victory for the rule of law over the fat cat oligarchy, a judge’s decision to add a third year onto the sentence is feted as a cherry on top for the former IDB chairman.

  • The ruling “sends a clear message that white-collar crime will no longer be tolerated and no one ‘is too big to fail,’” ToI’s Shoshanna Solomon writes.
  • “The message of the judges is ‘beware.‘ It is a message of deterrence. This is what you will get if you do this, Such a harsh verdict is justified. It is in the interest of the country to be harsh on crime,” economist Prof. Eyal Winter tells her.
  • “Sending him to prison for three years is a message to the business community about the importance of protecting the rule of law, the obeying the rule of law, securities laws and the public’s savings, as well as a message about the risks associated with an excess concentration of economic power,” reads Haaretz’s lead editorial.
  • “At the end of the day … the only thing that sent Nochi Dankner to jail was himself, or his hubris,”’ writes Eli Zippori in the Globes financial daily. “That was the original sin, the sin of pride, that turned into a contagious disease not only among the business barons and managers but also among politicians and even, heaven forfend, journalists.”

3. More to come? Several pundits are noting that even with Nochi Dankner going to jail for insider trading, it’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

  • “For years he managed Shufersal and Cellcom by charging consumers massive prices; he gave out sweetheart jobs to those loyal to him; he took money from the public and invested it in wild securities gambles with tremendous risks; he gave himself and his deputies extraordinary dividends and salaries,” Golan Gridenfeld notes in the Calcalist financial daily.
  • “The decision is historic,” writes Eitan Avrieli in Haaretz financial supplement The Marker. “But what of all the many injustices tycoons like Dankner did and are doing, and which are not illegal according to the securities laws. When will they be exposed?”

4. Napoleonic precedent: The ruling in the Dankner case may be new, but it can actually be traced back to 1814, writes Lilach Baumer in Calcalist.

  • The case revolved around a British officer and some buddies who spread fake news about Napoleon dying to falsely pump up government war bonds, which they then sold before the news was debunked.
  • “The English court has made it clear that the distribution of false information with the intent of increasing the value of the bonds is itself the offense, regardless of the final result,” she quotes from the Wednesday decision, which cited the 1814 case.

5. Finding their religion: Israel Hayom features a picture of Dankner outfitted in a skullcap, reading from a book on a shtender (a lectern used by some observant Jews during study and prayer), while at Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs this week.

A picture of Nochi Dankner on the cover of Israel Hayom August 30, 2018. (screen capture: Israel Hayom)
  • The turn toward religion when things are going bad is not unique to Israelis, but it seems to be a theme that when people get in trouble with the law, they suddenly dig their old kippas or prayerbooks out from the bottom of some closet and make sure the public sees their more pious side.
  • The move may be intended either to win them sympathy points from judges and the public, or to get them into religious wings in prison, which are supposed to be somewhat cushier and where inmates can while away their time studying Torah.
  • Here’s a short photo essay of other prominent criminals and accused criminals who suddenly found God:
Former president Moshe Katsav leaves Ma’asiyahu Prison, where he served five years of a seven-year rape sentence, on December 21, 2016. (Photo by Aloni Mor/Flash90)
Shula Zaken, former aide of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City after she was release from Neve Tirza women’s prison on January 26, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israel’s former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman performs a short prayer at the Western Wall,after he was acquitted of fraud on November 6, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli singer Kobi Peretz and his wife arrive to the Tel Aviv district court on June 28, 2017. Peretz was convicted on charges of tax fraud and sentenced to 1,5 year in prison. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Underworld figure Shalom Domrani seen in the Rishon Lezion court in 2011. Gideon Markowicz/FLASH90)

6. Salazar’s kinda formal conversion: Of course, challenging someone else’s connection to Judaism is a dangerous game, as has become evident with New York State Senate candidate Julia Salazar (and others) continuing to push back against Tablet for questioning her Judaism.

  • According to the New York Jewish Week, which interviewed Salazar, the candidate “said she underwent a formal conversion in 2012 with a Reform rabbi at Columbia/Barnard Hillel after a two-month conversion course. Pressed for details, she said the course was taught by someone she believes was a rabbinic intern who left before the end of it for paternity leave. She also said she chose not to have any formal ceremony marking her conversion.”
  • On Twitter, Haaretz writer Allison Kaplan-Sommer writes that the defense “feels like gaslighting.”

7. Abbas the workhorse? Ramallah is pushing back against a report by Israel’s Channel 10 that the health of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is failing.

  • According to the report, which relied on unnamed sources, Abbas, 83, can only manage two hours of work a day and is experiencing frequent memory loss, unable to remember names or faces.
  • However, a source close to Abbas in the Muqata tells The Times of Israel’s Adam Rasgon that Abbas is keeping a robust schedule and is healthy as ever.
  • “He has been coming to work for four hours in the morning and early afternoon and then again in the evening for five hours,” the official says.
  • While Abbas was hospitalized in May, the source indicates he has been healthy since a trip to Russia to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin: “His health has improved tremendously. It has been business as usual in recent weeks.”
  • Indeed, pictures of Abbas with Bosnian leader Bakir Izetbegovic Wednesday showed him looking as hale as ever.

8. The dirt on Duterte: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s schedule in Israel next week has been announced, and unlike Abbas’s apparent busy schedule, Duterte doesn’t have a ton going on during his three days here.

  • Duterte recently pushed back against reports that he was coming for medical treatment, instead issuing a bizarre statement about coming to check on guest workers in case of war: “I’m there because of the 28,000 Filipinos and it’s getting hotter there…There’s something brewing there but in Jordan we have 48,000 Filipinos that’s why I’m bringing (Environment Secretary Roy) Cimatu to prepare for that eventually and just in case war breaks out and then I can have my stomach open, chest open, and my brain,” he said, according to Manila’s official news agency.
  • The schedule does have one meeting with local Filipinos, and a viewing of an emergency response demonstration, but most striking according to Haaretz, is the fact that he will dedicate a Holocaust memorial in a Rishon Lezion park honoring nations that saved Jews during World War II.
  • Why is that controversial? Because Duterte once compared himself to Hitler and said he would kill 3 million drug addicts like Hitler killed 3 million Jews.
  • “Duterte, Who Compared Himself to Hitler, Will Inaugurate Holocaust Memorial in Israel,” reads the paper’s headline.

9. Everyone’s exclusive: A transcript of a call between US envoy David Friedman and the American Jewish Congress leaked to several news outlets set off a bit of a spat Wednesday night over who had the scoop.

  • A story aired by Hadashot news was touted as an “exclusive” by Yaron Avraham. The only problem? The transcript had already gone out in Jacob Kornbluh’s Jewish Insider and there was a report by Tal Shalev in the Walla news site at the same time.
  • Kornbluh tweeted at Avraham three times to tell him about his “exclusive”, before Avraham finally responded “Great for u (!) and sorry for us 🙁 thanks.”
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