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Likud Party Central Committee member Shlomo Madmon couldn't believe his ears. On Sunday of last week, Judy Shalom Nir Mozes, in an interview to Razi Barkai on Army Radio, described the suffering she and her family had endured during the demonstration staged by performing artists in front of her house the previous Friday evening. The singers, actors and others, most of them household names, were protesting the cuts made in the culture budget for 2003 and pinning the blame squarely on Judy's husband, Silvan Shalom, the finance minister.

"It was a shocking case of vandalism," Shalom Nir Mozes said. "They broke our gate ... wrecked part of the yard ... There has never been such barbarism ... I don't want him to be finance minister; I'm not ready to go through that again. I am going to veto that idea."

Madmon, a real-estate broker from Kfar Sava and a member of the city council, was flabbergasted. "Her ultimatum gave the impression that the finance minister is weak and that his wife tyrannizes him," he says.

Shalom Nir Mozes herself, getting wind of this interpretation of her remarks and concerned that what she said would be construed as defeatism and would reduce her husband's chances of a second term as finance minister, lost little time in repairing the damage. Appearing on "Six With Oshrat Kotler," Channel Two's late afternoon current-events program, she told anchor Aharon Barnea that she was "retracting the ultimatum totally ... I want to tell you unequivocally and clearly that there is not going to be a situation in which one of them [former Bank of Israel governor Jacob Frenkel or MK Ehud Olmert] will be finance minister at my husband's expense ... You know me - sometimes I have slips of the tongue that I don't really intend."

People who know Silvan and Judy say that she doesn't make slips of the tongue. Since their marriage, in 1993, the couple have worked close together in a calculated manner to bring about one goal: Shalom's appointment as a cabinet minister, then leadership of the Likud, and finally his election as prime minister. The plan is hardly a secret.

"People are always commenting on how hard I work for him," she told the Tel Aviv weekly Ha'ir in February 1996. "But it's also for me. He will be a cabinet minister and I will be the wife of a cabinet minister."

She has since sets her sights higher: Judy Shalom Nir Mozes now wants to be the wife of the prime minister. She is willing to do a lot to achieve that ambition. The interview with Razi Barkai was also planned. According to someone who is close to her, she wanted to let it be known that if her husband were not appointed finance minister in the new government, it would only be because she had vetoed the appointment and not because he had failed in his first term.

Shalom Nir Mozes is displaying considerable initiative on the way to the Prime Minister's Office. She calls editors and reporters to find out what they are planning to write about her husband, feeding them juicy stories about his rivals, and scolds those who have been critical of him in print or in the electronic media. Senior editors from the daily Ma'ariv and from its arch-rival, the mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth, which her family owns, get lunch invitations; top political reporters, such as Ma'ariv's Ben Caspit and Channel One's Ayala Hasson-Nesher are invited to the Shaloms' home on Shabbat - Hasson-Nesher has even accompanied her on trips abroad.

"It's not so easy to be critical of Shalom after you've become friends with his wife," says a political correspondent who is not a regular at her house.

Shalom Nir Mozes also has her own radio program - on Israel Radio, on Friday morning - that is mobilized in the struggle. A few weeks ago, she launched a sharp attack on the head of the police Investigations Branch, Moshe Mizrahi, and on the State Attorney's Office. A few days later, her brother-in-law, Zvi Shalom, was reported to be a suspect in the rigging of a public tender of the Israel Airports Authority, allegedly in return for assistance that was given to his brother, Silvan, in the Likud primaries. The media reports added that the police were checking whether Silvan Shalom himself knew anything about the matter.

`An old woman's name'

Judy Shalom Nir Mozes was born in August 1958 in Ramat Gan, to Noah and Paula Mozes, owners of Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's largest newspaper and the centerpiece of a vast business empire. She was the couple's first daughter after two sons - Gilad, who was killed in a road accident when she was a year old, and Arnon; she also has a younger sister, Tami. In the past, relations between the sisters were strained. Tami's husband, David Borowitz, one of the owners of Arkia Airlines, once said that "frecha [a derogatory term for women] is the most moderate term" he could think of to describe his sister-in-law. In the past few years, though, the sisters have grown closer. Judy is also on good terms with her brother, Arnon.

"Arnon should be allowed to operate without interference in Yedioth Ahronoth," their mother, who died in 1994, stated in her will. Shalom Nir Mozes usually abides by that document - apart from voicing minor differences of opinion. For example, she objected to the appointment of Moshe Vardi as the paper's editor-in-chief.

Her original name is "Yehudit" (Judith). She changed it to "Judy" in third grade, she told Hadashot, the now-defunct daily, in an interview in April 1989. "`Yehudit' is an old woman's name," she explained.

Her schoolmates from Ohel Shem High School in Ramat Gan remember her as an ordinary girl who didn't stand out and never mentioned her connection with Yedioth Ahronoth - except when she urged the school's prettiest girls to register for the annual beauty contest sponsored by La'isha, the very popular women's magazine published by the Yedioth Ahronoth Group. After completing high school, she did her army service as a VIP escort at Sde Dov Airport north of Tel Aviv. She made the papers when she had an affair with the veteran pop singer Zvika Pik.

"Even though I was married, we talked about marriage, though it's a bit hard to get married when you're already married," Pik observes. "She is one of the most amazing girls I know."

In 1982, Judy Mozes married Amiram Nir, who was the military correspondent for Channel One and afterward an expert on counter-terrorism. Nir was killed in a mysterious plane crash in Mexico in December 1988, a few weeks before his 38th birthday. Reports at the time and thereafter alleged that he had been involved in the "Iran-Contra affair" as a "point man" for Oliver North.

Nir and Mozes had two sons: Nimrod, now doing his military service in the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's Unit, and Nadav. In 1993, following a highly publicized romance, Nir Mozes married Silvan Shalom, a Likud politician and former journalist who came from a modest background. What made you decide to get married, she was asked in an interview in the woman's magazine At in December 2000. Did Silvan get down on bended knee?

"I decided," she replied. "I don't think it's healthy to drag out a relationship for more than a year or a year and a half." The couple has three children: a set of twins, Shira and Tomer, who are eight, and Alon, five.

For years, Shalom Nir Mozes wrote a column for the weekly political supplement of Yedioth Ahronoth, consisting largely of interviews with international celebrities such as Giorgio Armani, and Israeli names such as Rafi Nelson, who founded a resort village at Taba, socialite Nela Yaakobi and Eli Landau, then the mayor of Herzliya ("Using tractors, Landau chased away the income tax inspectors who had come to nose around the cars of Herzliya residents. What Landau did was illegal, but just between us, who likes having his car stopped by nosy tax inspectors?" she wrote on February 10, 1989).

Her last column appeared in September 1998. It described a weekend in a luxury hotel in the company of supermodel Cindy Crawford and Ivana Trump, and included photographs of the writer with the subjects of the article. In one anecdote, she related that Ivana Trump had advised her ex, tycoon Donald, not to hold the Miss Universe contest in Eilat, for fear of a possible terrorist attack.

"I almost let her have a proper Zionist response, but I managed to restrain myself," Shalom Nir Mozes wrote. "I didn't want to be thrown out of the jet-set a second after I had gained a foothold in it."

One of the people

The road to the Prime Minister's Office is studded with 2,700 Likud Party Central Committee members who are highly demanding, and they are the target of many of Shalom Nir Mozes's efforts in support of her husband. She knows most of them, attends their family events with lavish gifts, hosts them in her home and comes to their aid when they need help.

"She wields a great deal of influence," explains Uzi Cohen, a member of the central committee and deputy mayor of Ra'anana. "She was informed that the prime minister promised that he [Silvan Shalom] would get the job [of finance minister], and the moment the PM dumps him, there will be chaos in the Likud. The prime minister will not get into a confrontation with the grass roots. If she tells me to bring a few busloads of people to a demonstration, I bring them within two hours. She will get thousands to protest within a day."

How will she be able to do that?

Cohen: "She has good connections with the activists. For her, there is no difference between an intellectual and a worker, they are all equal. She comes to meetings and to weddings. At social events she does the hosts honor - she dances, she mixes; she is not some block of wood, she's an energetic girl. She is also responsive when central committee members come to her with problems. For example, the son of one committee member went AWOL from the army. He wanted to send him back but didn't know what to do - not every parent is familiar with the defense establishment. She spoke to the authorities and succeeded in getting the kid to go back. Or in the medical area, for example, if a central committee member is sick, she is asked where to turn for help. She is considered a very informed person who connects people to the right places."

Ilan Badani, a contractor and head of the Likud branch in Hod Hasharon, says that Shalom Nir Mozes doesn't put on airs: "She climbs down from the Olympian heights to the people. She was at my son's bar mitzvah and at the brit [circumcision ceremony] of my grandson, and she always brings a nice present. It never yet happened that she came empty-handed. Even when she comes for jahnoun [a traditional Yemenite dish] on Shabbat, she always brings something, even if it's only flowers. And she always tries to help. I sent her some friends of mine who had an economic problem and she helped."

Every two or three months, Silvan and Judy invite about a hundred central committee members to their home, says Moshe Yadai, a building inspector from Hod Hasharon and until recently a member of the Likud central committee, who now "works behind the scenes," mainly in the service of Silvan Shalom. "She opens the house to them and serves them, whether it's helping to put out the chairs or serving the food. She doesn't sit around like some aristocrat."

Shalom Nir Mozes has formed especially close ties with Yitzhak Nimrodi, head of the Likud's Ramat Efal branch, and with his wife, Zmira. The Ramat Efal branch has five registered members, four of whom are Yitzhak, Zmira and their two daughters. They are all very devoted to Judy and Silvan, organizing parlor meetings and recruiting votes for him. Yitzhak Nimrodi happens to be a relative of the Nimrodis who own Ma'ariv.

"Before we became friends, she thought I was part of the Nimrodi family from Ma'ariv," Yitzhak Nimrodi says. "I explained to her that we are relatives, but that there are no connections between us. I have never even met him [Ofer Nimrodi, the publisher of Ma'ariv]. She accepted that. If I am a member of the central committee who supports her husband, that is more important to her than the fact that I am from the Nimrodi family. And I am not the only central committee member she is friendly with. She has formed personal friendships with many committee members. She is a very sociable girl, always laughing, asking and making sure people support Silvan."

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