Worrisome news

 Maariv is one of Israel''s two centrist Hebrew dailies, along with Yedioth Aharonoth. They are between Haaretz to the left and Israel Hayom to the right.


While no  editorial board may be free of subtle or not so subtle intentions, one doesn''t read Maariv prepared for the most obvious of tilts that are customary in its two rivals on the extremes.


None of which makes this Friday''s headlines any more pleasant.


On the top of page one is the latest on a scandal that has bothered the media for several days. After dithering for years, the chief prosecutor has ordered a police investigation of a sitting judge accused of beating his children.


Commentators and news readers have been in high fury over the possibility that a judge could escape tough police questioning about a matter that could put a regular parent accused of abuse in custody for several days, and then the prospect of a criminal trial.


The prosecutor''s staff has excused the delay as reflecting a poorly managed office.


That is not likely to quiet the media, already lambasting the prosecutor and his predecessor for other unpopular decisions.One involved several years indecision about criminal proceedings against Avigdor Lieberman. Another concerned the staff''s decision to charge the wife of the present prosecutor, but not the prosecutor himself, for employing an illegal immigrant to clean their home.


Next on page one is something on the formation of a coalition. It''s far from done. Indeed, it may be going backwards. Jewish Home does not like Netanyahu''s  agreement with Tsipi Livni, giving her responsibility for negotiating with the Palestinians. The headline indicates that he is willing to redo his agreement with her in order attract Jewish Home.


If that is true, and if the change comes to past, it will score one for the settlers.

However, later news is that Netanyahu intends to punish the settlers by freezing building outside of the major settlement blocs. Political negotiations continue, and they seem to be getting nastier.


There is a picture of Catherine Ashton, recently seen smiling and shaking the hand of the Iranian delegate to talks about that country''s nuclear program. In Maariv''s picture, she is looking serious. The headline says she is demanding that the 22 members of the European Union enforce the law requiring the marking of goods produced over the Green Line. That is what those unhappy with Israel call the "occupied territories."


It is easy to see Ms Ashston as an ugly Eurocrat, happy to describe progress every meeting with Iranians that others see as nothing more than Persian delay and obfuscation. And then insisting that Israel be brought to heel for economic activities that employ lots of Palestinians and do not threaten anyone with mass destruction.


According to Ms Ashton, it will be necessary to mark my notes as originating in the "settlement" of French Hill.


Next on Maariv''s front page is the latest of 14 assassinations in an ongoing war between "Mafia" families that mostly occur on the streets (and on one occasion the beach) in and around Tel Aviv. In this case a car blew up, killing two gangsters riding in it. As in previous instances, the police announced that it was an internal matter of the underworld (illegal gambling, money lending, prostitution, drugs, protection), suggesting that Israelis could relax, knowing that the explosion was not the work of a Palestinian suicide bomber.


"Civilians" have been injured or killed on account of being in the wrong place when the gangs were imposing their justice on one another. A followup story on an inner page carries the headline, "The situation here is intolerable. Even Harlem is safer."


The bottom of page one has two pictures of an Arab woman, the mother of eight and two months pregnant with a ninth. In one picture she appears worried, and in the other we see why. It shows her being attacked by what appear to be two religious Jewish women and one religious young man.


According to the article, the woman was accosted at a shopping center with the question, "Are you an Arab?" (Her head covering made the question superfluous). Then she was spit upon and roughed up when she answered, "certainly. "


After Maariv appeared, yet another item took over the Friday.headlines. ש ד  (S. D.) died. He was a witness, not fully identified by name, but important to the case of the prosecution against Ehud Olmert and other worthies on charges of bribery involving a prominent real estate project in Jerusalem. The case has already dragged on for years, which in itself is no great compliment for Israeli justice. What the demise of a key witness in mid testimony will mean, only time will tell. And given the pace of Israeli judges and lawyers, it is likely to be considerable time until the principals in the case, and the rest of us, know for sure.


Israel is strong enough to get through a front page like that of Maariv and the rest of the news, but they make for a Shabbat that is more worrisome than joyous.