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Eitam's tactical error

National Union-National Religious Party MK Effi Eitam ("Most of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria should be deported") doesn't worry me. I have always thought that behind his beard hides a hallucinatory religious fanatic and political curiosity. The one who worries me is Yisrael Beiteinu MK Avigdor Lieberman, a canny politician who at this stage is perceived as a natural partner to Olmert's coalition and at the next stage as a legitimate candidate for leading the country. Here is what Lieberman said about Eitam's remark: "He has erred in his representation of things. There is nothing easier than giving extremist headlines. There is no argument about the facts and the conduct of Israeli Arabs. The incitement distracts attention from the issue itself."

Lieberman is critical of the style, but identified with the substance. As far as he is concerned, "There is no argument about the facts and the conduct of Israeli Arabs" - that is, about the fact that, to quote Eitam, they are "a fifth column, a bunch of traitors of the first degree," who must be expelled from the political system. The problem is that Eitam made a tactical error. He chose a fiery formulation, which damages the public relations of the expulsion. Lieberman would have chosen a different formulation, which would not distract attention from the shared aim and would allow him to act toward its achievement the moment he gets to the right place. The Ministry of Public Security looks like a good start.

All the president's men

The "As of This Morning" studio at Army Radio. Rafi Reshef is interviewing Prof. David Libai, President Moshe Katsav's attorney.

Reshef: "If the president's version had sounded unbelievable to you, would you have refused to accept the case?"

Libai: "I was asked by the president to help him with the legal aspects when he was being blackmailed. I didn't come because of the sexual issue. The sexual issue is an issue that suddenly snuck in and came up in the whole story of the extortion. In the whole story of the extortion there isn't a trace of the sexual aspect and I don't want to add anything to this."

Reshef in effect asked Libai whether he believes his client with regard to the sexual relationship with "Aleph." Libai chose a vague answer that can be interpreted in either of two contradictory ways. The first interpretation is that he means to say that the sexual issue was invented by the complainant in order to divert the investigation from the attempted extortion that is attributed to her. This interpretation is that the attorney believes his client and is convinced that a plot has been concocted against him. The second interpretation is that Libai means to say that had he known about the sexual issue he would not have enlisted in his defense. He came to his client's aid only because he believed that it was an extortion case. This interpretation implies that Libai has doubts about the president's veracity (regarding the sexual issue) and is perhaps shaking off responsibility for the outcome of this affair.

Which of the two interpretations is correct? Everyone is invited to decide for himself. Another quote from Libai might be of help: "It was not I who advised the president to apply to the attorney general (with a complaint about the extortion attempt)." The president's legal situation is not clear, but Libai, at least, has an alibi.

The true story

On Friday this looked like another one of those exclusivity-bypass tricks on the part of the mass-circulation daily Maariv against its rival, Yedioth Aharonoth. While the latter boasted, on the cover of its weekend supplement, of Sima Kadmon's "exclusive" interview with Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Ben Caspit published an amazingly similar interview in the former in the transparent guise of quotes from "private conversations and closed discussions." Certain parts of the two interviews were really identical (Kadmon: "Peretz is still certain that the model of a civilian defense minister is correct;" Caspit: "'There has to be a defense minister here who is a civilian,' he said"). In other parts the interview in Maariv was more revealing and provocative (Peretz in Caspit's piece: "[Chief of Staff Dan] Halutz simply torpedoed the Shahak commission in a barefaced way;" Peretz in Kadmon's piece: "The chief of staff and the general staff have to gird their loins and examine the various issues that have come up in the wake of the war"). The official interview was more extensive, but the unofficial interview stole an important piece of the show.

On Sunday it emerged that Maariv's trick was just the tip of a Pandora's box. Yedioth Aharonoth reported (exclusively) on the resignation of Ilan Ostfeld, Peretz's media advisor. "Sources close to Ostfeld" said that he "is unable to function in the culture of lying and deception that infects Peretz's near environment and is deleterious to his (Ostfeld's) reliability in a basic way." To what was Ostfeld referring? Raviv Drucker provided the answer on Channel 10. According to him, Peretz's "near environment" is his confidante Rachel Turjeman, who has tremendous influence on him. According to Turjeman, Ostfeld believes that Turjeman was behind the interview initiative at Maariv, which was done without his knowledge. His resignation was a reaction to Turjeman's behavior and an attempt to rehabilitate his own reliability, but at this opportunity he provided Caspit with an achievement as a souvenir: Without intending to do so, he revealed the defense minister's sources of inspiration.

An interesting woman

"Once you ignore the accent and the fact that she is nearly anonymous to the Israeli public, she is a very interesting woman" (Ben Caspit on Kadima MK Marina Solodkin, Army Radio).

Solodkin's Russian accent really is confusing. It makes one think that she is an uninteresting woman. Perhaps it brings to mind all the Russian women who ask for your club membership card at the supermarket. Her anonymity is also a little confusing. After all, only famous people are interesting people.