BREAKING: Israel’s Pres. Herzog Does Deals for ‘Special Friends’ Herzog Commuted Prison Sentence for Powerful Rabbi's Sister
NOTE: I’ve just published a new piece, Israel’s “AI Kill” against Iran has no long-term strategic benefit, but profound moral and legal ramifications at The New Arab. It comments on Israel’s “achievement” as the first country in the world to assassinate someone using artificial intelligence. It critiques the NY TImes article extolling the virtues of the Mossad’s murder of the father of Iran’s nuclear program, Moshen Fakhrizadeh. This is my first piece for New Arab since 2016 and I’m delighted to be contributing to this fine publication.
The President of the State of Israel is an honorific post with little in the way of actual political power. The closest the job ever comes to real political decision-making power is when he has to name the prime minister. In the past few deadlocked elections, Pres. Rivlin attempted to force coalitions on somewhat unwilling partners. He used suasion in that case to facilitate an outcome that would benefit the nation.
Despite its limited role, it is a post that is coveted and sought by political leaders, usually as a reward for service to their Party or State. Isaac Herzog was a loyal Labor Party operative for decades. For his service, he was named chairman of the Jewish Agency (another sinecure offered to the politically-connected) following the decade or more in which Natan Sharansky served in that role.
Herzog has mostly been a plain vanilla politician. He never had the fire in the belly to run for prime Minister. Though he served as Labor Party leader, it was on its downhill slide. All this history was one of the reasons he could win posts like the Jewish Agency head or the presidency.
But in the past few days, a series of scandals has shocked Herzog, the current Israeli president, who’s never been especially associated with such controversy.
Last week, Herzog commuted the sentence of attorney Gila Naftalin and released her from prison. She had been serving a two year sentence for falsifying documents, testifying falsely under oath, and engaging in fraud. Among the most serious of her crimes was forging a will claiming a deceased client, who had once been nanny of Naftalin’s own children, had bequeathed an estate worth well over $1-million to the attorney. The woman’s daughters were thus cheated out of their own inheritance. In another case, she stole over $300,000 from a different client.
Herzog commuted Naftalin’s sentence against the recommendation of the State Prosecutor who noted that the defendant had not completed her rehabilitation program. It worried that if released she might resort to the same criminal behavior. Yet among Herzog’s claims was that every relevant state legal authority consulted approved of his commutation of her sentence.
Why did Herzog free her? Because Naftalin is the sister of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi who controls the Kotel. And why is this pertinent? Because Rabinowitz won his job after lobbying by the then-political advisor to Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Who was this advisor? You guessed it: Isaac Herzog. Thanks to Hannah Kim who revealed a good deal of this dirt on her Twitter timeline.
In case Herzog needs a recommendation for prisoners who truly deserve clemency or commutation, I offer Dirar Abusisi, who isn’t even guilty of the crimes for which he’s rotted in prison for ten years. And Marwan Barghouti, who may or may not be guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted. But if released he could singlehandedly negotiate an end to the conflict. Depending of course on Israeli willingness to compromise and negotiate in good faith (all doubtful propositions, I’m afraid).
Rabinowitz as Kotel Rain-Maker and Enforcer
There are obvious reasons why Rabinowitz coveted this position. Obviously, being the senior religious authority responsible for one of the holiest sites in Judaism is a great honor. But there are less obvious benefits. Rabinowitz runs the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, a US charity with $21-million in assets. Among its donors are some of the wealthiest far-right pro-Israel families in the country including the Falics of Duty Free America Shops. Rabinowitz even penned a column in the Jerusalem Post memorializing one of the Falic brothers:
This Friday, the 10th of Tevet, will mark two years since the passing of Fima Falic, of blessed memory. He was a special man, a Kohen, a lover of the nation of Israel and the Land of Israel, a lover of Jerusalem and a friend of the Western Wall. Much has been written and much is yet to be written about this man and the family he left behind. But one of the things I often recall is his blessing of his children and grandchildren every Friday evening. From the sidelines, I was always moved by seeing that while doing so, his heart was filled with glory and pride, tears and joy. May this be for the transcendence of his soul.
What Rabinowitz doesn’t mention is that the Falics are major funders of some of the most violent Kahanist groups and settlements. Among them the anti-miscegenist Lehava and Ateret Cohanim, which steals Palestinian homes as part of its Judaizing project in East Jerusalem. The Falics also spent extravagantly in founding the Psagot West Bank winery.
The Western Wall Foundation funds the archeological digs at the Kotel, which are part and parcel of the religious war with the Waqf Islamic authorities at Haram al Sharif. The Foundation is a key facilitator of the nationalist project of laying a Jewish claim to this contested sacred space. Its non-profit status means that the US taxpayer is subsidizing this religious war through the tax-deductions offered to American donors. Further, one of the Foundation’s directors is Jay Marcus, whose Central Fund for Israel is the largest US funder of Israeli settlement colonies.
Rabinowitz’s position also makes him responsible for the degradation meted out to non-Orthodox women who attempt to pray at the Kotel. That includes violent assaults against Women of the Wall, defiling holy prayer books, spitting on worshippers, and calling police to arrest leaders of the group.
Though Isaac Herzog is a long-time funtionary in the Labor Party, he is directly responsible for the appointment of a rabbi as the Kotel’s spiritual custodian who has presided over tremendous religious violence and hatred at the site.
Herzog’s father was an IDF major general, also president of Israel, and a founder of one of Israel’s most powerful law firms, Herzog Fox Neeman (his grandfather was chief rabbi of Ireland and pr). Herzog fils is a lawyer as well. Rabinowitz and Herzog have a longstanding close relationship. But I haven’t been able to determine how it developed.
There is more: Naftalin was represented in her clemency filing by former deputy state prosecutor, Shuki Lemberger. Why is this pertinent? Because Lemberger’s brother Mumi, is currently deputy state prosecutor. The judge in Naftalin’s case levelled severe criticism on the prosecution for taking seven years to bring her case to trial. Given the conflict of interest involved in one brother representing Naftalin and the other representing the prosecution, this can be no accident.
Shuki Lemberger’s nephew (the son of Mumi) is married to the daughter of Supreme Court Justice Noam Solberg. Solberg is especially known as the first justice to be a settler living in an Israeli colonial settlement. Attorney Gonen Ben Yitzchak has already filed a complaint against Herzog in Naftalin matter. If it reaches the Supreme Court what are the odds that Solberg would recuse himself? Highly unlikely.
Though these may seem like minor scandals compared to the enormity of the suffering Israel inflicts every day on Palestinians, it’s important to establish the pattern of corruption and self-dealing that is at the heart of the Israeli state.
If you are poor, Mizrahi, a woman, or Palestinian you can hope for nothing within the state system. But if you are rich, powerful, well-connected, male and Ashkenazi you can work the system to your benefit. This systemic corruption is a feature of Israel. It could not be the racist apartheid state it is without the endemic domestic injustices outlined here.
18 thoughts on “BREAKING: Israel’s Pres. Herzog Does Deals for ‘Special Friends’ – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Let me get this right: the “deal” is shortening her sentence by 3 weeks? It took me almost as long just to read this blog post…
Any interference of any kind whether it’s 3 weeks, 3 years, or 3 minutes is a gross interference in the legal process and unacceptable. Herzog’s lies claiming the state prosecutor approved the commutation when it had already announced its opposition amounts to perjury. Another crime. But no worries, he’ll get away with it. He’s Ashkenazi, connected, rich and powerful. No one can touch him. And you shill for him. Good on ya!
I’m Sephardi (born in Morocco) and religious. And despite all these labels (which you insist actually mean something) I “shill” (what a disgusting word) for Herzog. Releasing her 3 weeks early so she can be home for Kippur is not interference. A. It’s compassionate. B. It’s completely within Herzog’s legal prerogative as President.
@ Shar: She stole millions from her clients including her own childrens’ babysitter and you want to offer her compassion? Oh and btw do you think during Yom Kippur she did a cheshbon nefesh regarding all her victims? Hardly. As an Israeli on Twitter wrote: the best test of whether this is kosher or not is to consider if she were the sister of Aymen Oudeh whether she would receive the same treatment. Of course, she wouldn’t.
As for what is in the President’s discretion: does that include lying about the prosecutor agreeing with the clemency decision?
It’s unfortunate you refuse to recognize the corruption and rot at the heart of your own legal system. But I do and I will expose it here. As for you being Sephardi, often those discriminated against are the most loyal to the system that harms them.
Let’s call this to an end. You’re welcome to comment in other threads, but you’ve had your say in this one.
You don’t like what I wrote, so you write back with counter arguments (legitimate) adding a personal psychological analysis (less legitimate), but then “call it an end” so as not to hear any rebuttal.
Fair enough. Your blog, your rules.
“…As for you being Sephardi, often those discriminated against are the most loyal to the system that harms them…”
Said the investigative journalist suddenly turned psychologist.
Back to the real issue at hand – a mediocre politician turned president. This piece of …. wouldn’t cooperate when he was under a criminal police investigation, siting the right to silence.
What’s next? Granting a pardon to Netanyahu, perhaps
One of the aspects of journalism I find refreshing is that every story you cover requires you to learn about subjects you didn’t know; and become an expert in fields you wouldn’t normally experience. So yes, you do need psychological skills in addressing political and social issues. It’s very helpful actually.
You could say that about any parole or commutation of a sentence.
Richard. Who’s the convict whose sentence would you recommend Herzog commute?
@ Ben G: Not at all. The state prosecutor, in objecting to her release said she hadn’t completed her rehabilitation program and feared she would return to the same behavior. That’s a red flag Herzog deliberately ignored. BTW, did Herzog consult with any of her victims before commuting? Of course not because he knew what they would say. The whole thing reeks of sleaze. As for Herzog, no more Mr. Clean. He’s as dirty as all the rest.
Who should he commute? Marwan Barghouti of course and Dirar Abusisi as well. Abusisi isn’t even guilty of committing the “crime” he’s accused of. Barghouti could singlehandedly resolve the conflict if released, and if Israel was willing to seriously engage in compromise and negotiation.
No more comments in this thread.
Right… Three more weeks of rehabilitation and voilà! The threat of recidivism is magically gone.
So you are a better judge than the State prosecutor about how she should be treated? If so, why not apply to be state prosecutor? Then you can apply your superior judgement and replace that of the actual state prosecutor. Till then, I’ll take his judgment over yours (in this case).
So you are a better judge than the President of the State of Israel about how pardons should be given? If so, why not apply to be President? Then you can apply your superior judgement and replace that of the actual President. Till then, I’ll take his judgment over yours (in this case).
It works both ways. If you can criticize the President’s judgment, I can criticize the state prosecutor’s judgment.
@ Sharvul: is the state prosecutor better informed of the case, the victims and the criminal; and less conflicted than Herzog? Yes . And I don’t owe anyone any favors as Herzog appears to. My judgment is not impaired by unethical considerations as his is.
If you choose to throw in your lot with the corrupt Israeli elite, that tells us quite a lot about you.
again and again as soon as religion opens its mouth nothing good comes out
another pedophile protection racket
40 odd deaths and they blame a hapless cop.
Another aspect of this scandal is the fact that her license to practice law has been suspended for seven years only. It should have been cancelled. How can she ever be allowed to be anybody’s lawyer?
@ David Allon: And that’s precisely why the state prosecutor, in opposing reducing her sentence, warned that she might return to her former criminal conduct.
Not sure I agree with the notion that all Mizrahim are at the lower end of the social spectrum in Israel. There are rich Mizrahi women too in Israel. A family I know with roots in Egypt would make many Askhenazi Israelis look like paupers.
Also, Israeli Christians (Arab) are highly educated and well to do.
@ zibbkabeer: I do not permit anyone who is not Arab or Muslim to adopt handles that are Arabic. Do not use this handle again here. If you do, I will ban you.
Also, do not publish more than 3 comments in any 24 hr period. I do not permit commenters to monopolize the comment threads.
Mizrahim have always been discriminated against in Israeli society. They continue to be till today despite the fact that half of Israelis are Mizrahi. If you deny this you either know nothing about Israel or you’re lying. Take your pick.