A longstanding power struggle between Iran’s top leaders crystallized this week over the legal system that will decide the fate of 13 Iranian Jews charged with spying for Israel and America.
Offering the first specifics on the case against them, Iran’s foreign minister said Monday that the 13 were arrested “on charges of illegally gathering secret information, including military information, and handing it over to foreigners.”
Leaders of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee signaled they may soon find a way to aid some 15,000 destitute Ethiopians who want to go to Israel after reportedly being attacked in their villages due to their Jewish connections.
For Israel, the pressure has lifted — for now. After weeks of escalating criticism, the Clinton administration has suddenly taken a more benign tack in its dealings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s meetings with Netanyahu and with Palestinian Authority chief Yasir Arafat last week reset the clock for the two leaders to make some fateful decisions — decisions that so far they have studiously avoided.
Even as they wade through a swamp of unresolved controversies on their interim peace agreement amid distrust exacerbated by a terrorist murder, Benjamin Netanyahu and Yasir Arafat face the threat of that agreement’s broader collapse at their summit near Washington this week.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind, on trial for corruption, has told intimates that he is considering running his wife, Shoshana, in his place this fall if he is forced to withdraw from his re-election campaign, Borough Park and Democratic Party sources have told The Jewish Week.
But according to one widely respected local leader, if Hikind is convicted on any of the federal felony charges, “The community would be less supportive [of such a move] than he might imagine.”
A key prosecution witness has been harassed and threatened in an effort to intimidate him from testifying in the trial of Assemblyman Dov Hikind and Rabbi Elimelech Naiman, federal prosecutors claimed this week.
The alleged tactics, by members of the Ger chasidic sect, have not been tied by prosecutors to either of the defendants. And at the judge’s urging, Naiman, a Ger leader, has obtained rulings from Ger religious courts in Jerusalem and Brooklyn demanding that any such actions cease.
The courtroom light switches off, the overhead projector flicks on. And once more, the prosecutor speaks dryly of checks, contracts and budgets as the documents are projected on screen to the jurors. There are checks from the Council of Jewish Organizations of Boro Park — then Brooklyn’s largest Jewish community council — and its spinoffs to the political coffers of Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, and other political campaigns.
There are government contracts sponsored by Hikind and awarded to the council for social service programs.
Were contracts drawn up by senior officials of Brooklyn’s largest Jewish community council in response to subpoenas long after the work was supposedly done complete fabrications? Or was real work accomplished without agreements being signed at the time?
In the wake of testimony this week at the trial of Assemblyman Dov Hikind, it is virtually certain that point will be vigorously contested by prosecutors and defense lawyers.