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Hebrew media review

News à la Netanyahu

Scandals in the courts and the attorney general’s office keep the prime minister in the hot seat

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, alongside attorney Yossi Cohen at the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court on October 29, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, alongside attorney Yossi Cohen at the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court on October 29, 2015 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is all over the front pages of the Hebrew papers on Thursday, but readers would get radically different impressions depending on which newspaper they pick up.

Israel Hayom never ceases to make headlines out of reiterated comments by Netanyahu, this time reporting on the prime minister’s insistence that peace with the Palestinians cannot be coerced but rather must be made through direct talks between the two sides. While the other papers tackle domestic scandals, such as suspected corruption in the police force or more allegations against the prime minister, Israel Hayom regurgitates quotes from Netanyahu.

The prime minister’s remarks come just two days before a peace summit in Paris in which foreign ministers from around the world will try to hammer out groundwork for renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The only things that will be missing from the event will be Israeli and Palestinian delegates.

Haaretz, by comparison, leads off by reporting that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit didn’t contact French authorities concerning allegations that Netanyahu received millions of shekels from a French businessman. These claims are the latest to stack up against the prime minister in recent weeks, and the paper reports that Mandelblit and the state prosecutor’s office will meet next week to discuss the various cases facing the prime minister, including the “Bibi Tours” scandal and a case against Netanyahu’s wife over the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Yedioth Ahronoth, meanwhile, highlights the “united front” in defense of a Jerusalem Labor Court judge against a verbal attack by Sara Netanyahu’s lawyer. Attorney Yossi Cohen accused Judge Dita Proginin of bias against the prime minister’s wife in her decision to award NIS 120,000 ($31,000) in damages to a former employee of the Prime Minister’s Residence. Everyone in the Justice Ministry, from Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Supreme Court Justice Miriam Naor on down, leaped to the defense of Proginin and condemned the lawyer’s remarks as out of line, the paper reports. A formal complaint against Cohen and his practice was lodged to the bar association with Naor’s blessing.

Israel Hayom, as expected, leads with Cohen’s unapology, quoting him saying in its headline that “I didn’t mean to offend.”

Haaretz’s editorial lashes out at the behavior of Mrs. Netanyahu’s attorneys, who “acted as if the courtroom belonged to them” and unleashed “wild and dangerous outbursts against the court and the judge.” Despite Cohen’s apology, the fundamental problem, the paper opines, is the “attempts at interference and intimidation by those who believe they are above the law.”

After public outcry over the alleged rape of a mentally and physically handicapped Israeli woman in Jaffa earlier this month, police released the two Palestinian suspects because the woman retracted her claim that it was rape. Haaretz reports in its front page story that the 22-year-old woman admitted she lied about the man and teenager raping her, and that she was in a consensual relationship with one of them and her family fabricated the allegations to end their affair.

Yedioth Ahronoth calls it “The ‘nationalist rape’ that wasn’t” in its headline and reports that the police found correspondence between the woman and the accused pointing to the existence of their sexual congress before the alleged rape. The paper points out that the prime minister railed at the political left and Israeli media for not speaking out against the rape that wasn’t.

The case was closed and the third suspect, who wasn’t arrested, won’t be pursued for lack of evidence, Israel Hayom reports.

In another scandal, Yedioth Ahronoth reports that the man at the center of a suspected “cartel” jacking up the price of school trips to Poland joined the chief of police and other senior officers on a trip to Europe last month. Apparently, the paper reports, Pinhas Ginzburg, the man the police warned the public about and were investigating for corruption, won the contract to fly senior police officers to Poland for a heritage trip and sat at the same restaurant as the police brass.

“This is a disgrace,” a senior official informed of the incident tells the paper. “Simply disgraceful that the police, who warned the public about the same company and suspects it of crimes, actually chose it. The chief of police apparently doesn’t understand his role.”

Meanwhile Haaretz reports that the proposed NGO labeling bill would affect at least 27 organizations operating in Israel, 25 of which are human rights organizations. The bill is set to have its second and third readings in the Knesset and, if approved, be passed into law. The full list wasn’t disclosed, the paper reports.

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