Behind the Lines / Wholly Mozes

"The mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth eliminated from an interview with Ilana Dayan harsh statements against Justice Minister Justice Daniel Friedmann" - Haaretz, November 19.

Ilana Dayan's criticism of the justice minister's worldview did not feature in the published version of the interview she gave to Yedioth Ahronoth on November 9. The editors of the weekend magazine deleted the views of Dayan, who is the moderator of Channel 2's investigative program "Fact," in a manner so systematic that it seems as though this was no mere matter of professional editing considerations. This marks another, particularly grating, instance in the campaign the newspaper is waging in favor of the justice minister and against Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch.

This effort frequently spills over into the news pages, independent of the columns of Boaz Okun, the paper's legal commentator, a sworn enemy of Beinisch. Even if the news editors do not receive direct instructions from above, it is clear that the spirit of the commander - proprietor and editor-in-chief Arnon "Noni" Mozes - dictates the character of Yedioth's coverage. And if we add to this the editorial line against the Supreme Court adopted by the rival mass circulation daily Maariv, we find a rare and effective common front on the part of the two dailies in favor of Friedmann and against Beinisch. Facing an alliance like this, in which Yedioth plays the leading role, it is no wonder that each successive survey indicates another drop in the public's level of trust in the Supreme Court.

In the case of Maariv, this position has been explicit since proprietor Ofer Nimrodi's involvement in court proceedings and Amnon Dankner's appointment as editor. At Yedioth, however, the motives are more murky. Mozes is not one to share his considerations with those around him (and certainly not with readers), but it is obvious to everyone that Friedmann's war room at Yedioth operates with the publisher's backing and under his leadership.

According to testimonies from people close to him, Mozes' ideological views took shape as a result of his close ties with Okun, a former Supreme Court registrar and Yedioth's current legal editor. The two became friends when Okun, at the time an attorney at the law firm of S. Horowitz, represented Mozes in the legal battles over control of the newspaper. Later on, during his meteoric rise in the public justice system, Okun was at the center of a group that developed a critical approach vis-a-vis the investigation of public figures, and supported raising the bar for prosecution of white-collar crimes. The underlying idea was that the excessive activism of the State Prosecutor's Office interferes with the running of the country and prevents the government from functioning. In this context, Justice Beinisch, formerly a state prosecutor herself, was perceived as the major obstacle to the advancement of those ideas.

It was in this spirit that Okun promoted the appointment in 2003 of his close associate, Prof. Nili Cohen, to the Supreme Court bench, as a counterweight to Beinisch. Mozes rallied to his friend's assistance. When Cohen's appointment was rejected due to Beinisch's objection, the proprietor of Yedioth spiked an investigative report about the scrapping of the appointment and Okun's involvement in the matter. Instead, the paper began publishing a series of articles by Friedmann, then a law professor, and Cohen's close friend and patron, in which he expressed sharp criticism of Beinisch. From that moment onward, Friedmann became the official ideologue of a group of politicians and top lawyers, who have links to public figures and very wealthy individuals, and who are the enemies of what they call the "rule of law gang." Mozes also granted Friedmann a permanent platform for the dissemination of his ideas.

Mozes continued to maintain close ties with Okun after the latter was appointed Supreme Court registrar. When Okun had to resign from this post, following Beinisch's appointment as Supreme Court president, Mozes, in a surprise move, appointed him as the newspaper's legal editor. This brought about the crystallization of the tripartite axis (Mozes-Okun-Friedmann) that is waging the campaign against Beinisch and embittering her life. With Friedmann serving as justice minister and Okun leading the coverage of the legal beat, little room remains for veteran fighters against corruption like Motti Gilat, who has been pushed out of any position of influence at the paper.

Thus, as a result of its proprietor's current worldview - a product of his social and class connections with a group of people who hold the same view - Yedioth is spearheading the campaign against the Supreme Court. In this sense, Mozes is going against the professional heritage of investigative journalism and its battle against public corruption. In effect, he is putting his family's newspaper at the disposal of powerful and wealthy people who want to conduct their business without any interference from the law enforcement system.

His position poses a complicated challenge for the new editor, Shilo De-Beer, who does not appear to be a party to this editorial line. When they spoke, after the interview's publication, De-Beer succeeded in convincing Ilana Dayan of the purity of his intentions ("To my delight I found a willing ear for my criticism," she told Haaretz). Now all he has to do is convince the rest of the readers.

Gaydamak will pay

"According to reports in the Russian media, Arcadi Gaydamak and Roman Abramovich will provide $100,000 to fund the building of an alternate structure for the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, and in return the Russian Compound will be returned to Russian hands" - Maariv, Tuesday, November 20

"Arcadi Gaydamak was behind the funding that was needed to bring tenor Yevgeni Shapovalov to sing the two national anthems at the game between Israel and Russia" - Yedioth Ahronoth, Tuesday, November 20

Arcadi Gaydamak's method continues to work. Every time the government encounters a funding problem, he is around to solve it with his private money. The latest development concerns the construction of a new building for the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, since the building in which it is currently housed is slated to be returned to the possession of the government of Russia. Israel is prepared to return the building only in return for the construction of a replacement building, but negotiations on the subject are stuck because of a financial dispute. The solution proposed by the Russian government is that the funding will come from the pockets of Gaydamak and Abramovich.

This is a problematic solution for the government of Israel. Instead of making a deal with the government of Russia, it will be facing Gaydamak, a private businessman who has varied political and personal interests. As an individual who is the subject of criminal investigations, he is the last person who should be involved in building a courthouse in Israel. Apart from that, it is worth looking into what's in it for him.

The Foreign Ministry has made it clear that Israel will not accept the Russian side's being represented by private business people, but the Israel Football Association also claimed that Shapovalov sang the national anthems on a purely voluntary basis. Only after Maariv demanded a clarification did the tenor admit that "Gaydamak did indeed pay me." From the Foreign Ministry's response, it emerges that in effect the government is prepared to come to terms with the fact that Gaydamak will also fund the construction of the courthouse in the framework of an agreement between him and the government of Russia. The irony could reach its peak if the police investigation against him culminates in an indictment - he is liable to be tried in a building that he paid for with his private money.