APN's daily news review from Israel
Friday February 15, 2013
Quote of the day:
"I was crying all the time, I told them I have no issue with anything and that I have done nothing. I said 'be merciful, I have done nothing' but they didn't listen to me...They filmed me, laughing and mocking me."
--From the testimony of a mentally disabled Palestinian man who was abused by four Israeli Border Police officers and sicced on by their dog.**
Front Page News:
- Scratch my back and I'll scratch yours - Lieberman's trial opens Sunday, senior jurists in Israel agree: Saving the Foreign Ministry for him until the end of his trial is legal - but unethical
- Prisoner X - Ben Zygier boasted that he was drafted to the Mossad; Dubai Police Chief: Zygier did not cooperate with us; Adv. Feldman, who visited him two days before he committed suicide, did not think he was suicidal; The investigation and hearings over his death held behind closed doors for over one and a half years
- Foreplay - Netanyahu loves his partners weakened // Yossi Verter
- Vanilla and Pistachio - Netanyahu's ice cream costs us thousands of shekels a year
- In the US, they are not afraid to question the policy of assassinations // Amos Harel
- The Bedouin neighbors obstruct the Galilee scenery of the residents of the Nofit community
- Prophet in his city - Prof. Hartman was a groundbreaking thinker, but in Israel they did not know him
- Dog's life - Jerusalem Municipality vets could be charged with negligence over poisoning of pet dogs
- Discovery of the year in brain research
- "Mossad agent was going to reveal state secrets" - What caused Israel to secretly arrest Ben Zygier and jail him under a pseudonym in total isolation?
- In Australia they say he was about to reveal to Australian authorities secret information about the Mossad use of foreign passports in the assassination of Hamas official Mabhouh in Dubai
- In a Kuwaiti paper they claim: Zygier was involved in Mabhouh assassination and revealed everything to Dubai
- The man who spoke to much - Life and death story of Ben Zygier
- Secrets from the block of the Xs - Mordechai Keidar's file was re-opened
- Rabbi Aviner: I was a Mossad agent and operated in Iran
- Questions that need to be asked //Sima Kadmon
- "We all mourn him" - report from Sydney, Australia
- Netanyahu's ice-cream budget
- (Olympic) Running star accused of murdering his girlfriend
- Senior judicial official: Zygier's identity was deleted in order to protect him (Hebrew)
- Testimonies received by Maariv reveal: In opposition to guidelines, after the (removal) of Ben Zygier's body, police and forensic crime people were prevented from entering his cell for hours (Hebrew)
- Report from Australia: Zygier was arrested before giving information about Mossad operations
- What happened to him? Amir Rappaport
- Habayit Hayehudi: Netanyahu needs to give up on the ultra-Orthodox if he wants to make a coalition - Yair Lapid quoted on Channel 10: "The day that I am photographed giving oath to the government alongside a Shas minister - my career is finished" (Hebrew)
- Failure in divide and conquer // Shalom Yerushalmi
- Shadow war - Teheran accuses Israel of assassinating an Iranian general
- The ambassador in Belarus affair - Avigdor Lieberman's trial opens on Sunday (Hebrew)
- Shock in S. Africa: Oscar Pistorias, the Olympic amputee runner, suspected of murdering his girlfriend
- Tonight: 130,000 ton asteroid will pass by Earth at a distance of 28,000km
- "Zygier was arrested a moment before he leaked information about the Mossad"
- The damage we inflict on ourselves // Boaz Bismouth
- Israel has nothing to be ashamed of // Dan Margalit
- "The senior Iranian was killed in the bombing of the arms convoy in Syria"
- Extremely close: Asteroid to pass "next to" earth
- Handicapped athlete, cultural hero, suspected of murder
- For first time since (social justice) protest: Price of cottage cheese to rise
- Four Border Police guards found guilty of abusing a helpless Palestinian
- For the first time: Bennett to meet with the representatives of Yehadut Hatorah
- Rainy in the north? In the Beit Shaan area you can travel without umbrellas
New details on the mysterious life and death of the Australian-Israeli Ben Zygier, in the affair known as 'Prisoner X,' raise even more questions and fill pages in the news and commentary sections of today's Israeli papers. While most of the new information was reported in all the papers, Maariv was the only one to reveal that after Zygier's death, forensic police were prevented from entering his cell. Maariv also reported on the fears of the Australian Jewish community. Haaretz reported that Zygier had boasted to friend he was recruited by the Mossad and that the State is compensating his family for his death. Lastly, Yedioth reported on a rabbi who finally acknowledged that he too had worked for the Mossad.
There are now conflicting reports on the reason Ben Zygier was arrested by Israel and incarcerated without his name being revealed. According to Australian reports, Zygier planned to disclose to Australian authorities how the Mossad used Australian passports for espionage purposes.
Israeli intel officials informed Australian counterparts of Zygier's arrest eight days after Dubai revealed that suspected Israeli agents used passports in assassinating Mahmoud Mabhouh in February 2010, the report says. Haaretz writes that according to Australian media reports, Zygier was apparently not a spy or a traitor, but a young man who lacked discretion, was boastful and talked too much. It also appears from those reports that Zygier did not give information to an enemy state, nor did he intentionally breach state security. His arrest also came days after an Australian journalist questioned him on being a Mossad spy that used a European shell company to sell Iran electronic goods. But a Kuwaiti report said that Zygier took part in the assassination of Mabhouh and later revealed all the details to the Dubai authorities. The Dubai police chief has denied this.
Haaretz interviewed Australian friends of Zygier, one of whom said Zygier boasted of his Mossad recruitment. "I later found out I wasn't the only one he told," said the unidentified friend. Zygier's death in an isolated cell with four closed-circuit 24-hour surveillance cameras continues to raise questions about whether he really did commit suicide, and not just among journalists. Maariv revealed that after Zygier's body was retrieved, numerous people from the security services, most wearing plain clothes, prevented the forensic police from entering - in contradiction to the guidelines. "They went in and out of his cell and did not allow anyone to enter," said a source who was involved in the affair. "Only much later did they allow the 'more official authorities' to enter and begin to investigate the story." (NRGHebrew) Moreover, many sources at the Ayalon Prison expressed wonder that the cause of death, as reported by the Prison Authority, was hanging. They told Maariv that there was more shrouded in secrecy than there was revealed. Moreover, the police were not even informed of Zygier's death until some time after Magen David Adom rescue services were called.
Channel 10 News released the transcript of the phone call between the prison and the Magen David Adom rescue services line after the (apparent) suicide.
"This is Ayalon Prison, I need an ambulance immediately," said one of the guards, who when asked for the identity of the deceased answered:
"Listen, he hanged himself. We need an ambulance. I don't have details, I'll tell the medic to get back to you."
Haaretz ran a revealing look inside the cell of Prisoner X and Yigal Amir, which was equipped with special monitoring devices especially designed to prevent suicides. "The wardens were instructed to report everything that happened in the cell as seen on the security cameras, and the cell was inspected every hour...In the cell's bathroom stall and shower area a special camera system was installed, which identifies breathing and body movement. If the system doesn't sense any movement for 50 seconds, it turns on a warning light in the guardroom. If there is still no movement 10 seconds later, an alarm goes off and security cameras are automatically activated in both the cell and toilet," wrote Haaretz.
A source told Haaretz that six weeks ago, at the end of an inquiry into the cause of Zygier's death, Israel signed a compensation agreement with Zygier's family to give it millions of shekels. The testimony by human rights lawyer Avigdor Feldman also raised questions about Zygier's death.
Feldman told Army Radio that Ben Zygier appeared "rational, focused and to the point" when he met him, two days before his death. He was trying to decide whether he should accept a plea bargain with the State and spend a very long time in jail. Feldman said Zygier was inclined to reject the plea deal and go to trial to prove his innocence. He also said Zygier was under heavy pressure and threats from his interrogators. "He was told he was likely to be sentenced to an extremely long prison term and would be shunned by his family and the Jewish (Australian) community. That affects a person's soul," said Feldman.
A senior official told Haaretz that "just" a handful of prisoners have been held in Israel without public's knowledge. In Zygier's case, the source said, his family was notified immediately, he was represented by a lawyer and his case was prosecuted as a regular criminal case in a district court - but without any information getting out. A legal official told Ynet the Zygier affair may prompt indictments. Pointing to the investigation into his death, he said, "Had the judge who examined this case found nothing, she would not have turned the case over." Unnamed sources told the Israeli press that Zygier had agreed not to have his name revealed.
Maariv wrote that the Jewish community of Australia fears that they will be tagged as double agents, Maariv reports. The Zygier family also asked leaders of the Jewish community and the Zionist federations of Australia not to respond to media requests, one senior Jewish source in the community told Maariv. The source also said he did not want to respond to the media requests in an effort to keep a low profile so that the Australian Jewish community would not be connected with the affair. "They have not yet begun talking in the local press about Australian Jews who move to Israel or about Australian recruited to the Mossad, and we fear they will." A Jewish student in Melbourne told Maariv, "I know a number of members of the Jewish community who were recruited by the Mossad, but that was a few years ago, and today I think they are much more careful." (NRG Hebrew)
Meanwhile, after years of rumors and continuous denial, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of Beit El settlement revealed yesterday that he did work for the Mossad from Iran, Yedioth reported. In an interview with the religious website 'Kippah," he said that he received a phone call after the Iranian revolution in 1979 asking for his help. The next day he went to an office and then was sent to Iran on a French passport. His cover was that he was a representative of the French rabbinate who was sent to make sure that Jews in Iran had matzas for Passover. How did he transfer messages? "My aunt Gittel had a company that exported chandeliers from France all over the world, including to Iran. I would call her from public phones as if I were a customer and give her the information in codewords." Aviner returned to Israel after Passover and returned once more to Iran, but said he noticed he was being followed and shortened his trip.
- **4 Border Guards convicted of abusing helpless Palestinian - Border Guard officers documented themselves abusing mentally disabled Palestinian near Givat Ze'ev checkpoint. Btselem tracked down the man and got his testimony. (Ynettestimony and HaaretzVIDEO)
- Former Jewish Underground convict receives more than NIS 1.3 million from state - The Israel Tax Authority paid him compensation for damage he suffered while cultivating land illegally in a Palestinian village - and he is suing for more. (Haaretz)
- Vandals desecrate Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem - 'Price tag' sprayed over graves in cemetery located near site of a planned museum of tolerance. (Ynet and Haaretz)
- Settler security official: 'Palestinians are not supposed to stand next to Jews' (972mag)
- Senior Syrian opposition official: "Assad assassinated Imad Mughnieh" - New version on assassination of Hezbollah chief of staff given to Egyptian newspaper. (Maariv/NRG Hebrew)
- Suspicion: Palestinian tried to run over cop - Police officer opens fire on vehicle breaking through checkpoint near Karnei Shomron settlement; driver moderately hurt, passenger uninjured. (Ynet)
- Human Rights Watch: Israel violated laws of war during offensive on Gaza - U.S.-based group says Israel mounted several airstrikes on non-military targets and used disproportionate force during November's operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip; attacks claimed the lives of over 40 Palestinian civilians, new report says. (Agencies, Haaretz)
- US, Jordan say 'window closing' on Middle East peace process - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh say their countries are committed to trying to achieve a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement • Jordan FM: Israel-Palestinian conflict has global ramifications. (Agencies, Israel Hayom)
- Israel shells out almost a fifth of national budget on defense, figures show - State spending is more than six times what industrialized nations and Arab countries drop, on average; in 2011, defense cost the Israeli economy about NIS 66.8 billion - more than 50% on salaries. (Haaretz)
- Senior Iranian killed in convoy attack, says Syrian website - Gen. Hassan Shateri, was allegedly killed two weeks ago when, according to media reports, Israeli aircraft bombed a Lebanon-bound convoy in Syria. (Haaretz)
Jordan in secret talks to import natural gas from Israel's Tamar field - The gas would be delivered through the Israeli gas pipeline that serves Israel Chemicals' Dead Sea Works plant in Sodom. (Haaretz)
Prepared for APN by Orly Halpern, independent freelance journalist based in Jerusalem.