Trouble in the Land of Milk, Honey and...Corruption
Jewish Post Correspondent
WAITING FOR WINOGRAD
Israel is on hold. Everyone is awaiting Judge Winograd’s Committee Report – investigating Lebanon War 2 - due to appear at the end of April.
In the meantime, people can bite into three testimony protocols, providing by the committee itself. It had released testimonies from Vice Premier, Shimon Peres, Maj.-Gen.(R) Amos Malka, former military intelligence commander and Bri.-Gen. Amnon Ben-Ari, Head of Economy in Time of Emergency, (MELAH).
The Protocols – partially censored for “national security reasons” – were not extended voluntarily. The High Court of Justice as a response to MK Zahava Gal-On, (Meretz), ordered them in wake of her demands: that Olmert / Pertz /Halutz’s testimonies will be public before the committee submits the interim report to the government. All three witnesses, obviously, were critical of the publication of their testimonies. The testimony protocols of Olmert, Peretz and General Staff Lt.Gen. Dan Halutz – who has already resigned – will be released next week.
Peres had said at the committee: ”If it were up to me – I wouldn’t have gone into this war”. He also noted that TZAHAL (IDF), was a tired and unfit Army when it went into war, and blamed it on “the war against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip”. He just had forgotten to mention that he was one of the seven cabinet ministers who have decided to go “into this war”, backing the Prim Minister. Olmert, on his part, quashed rumors that now he would not support Peres for the Presidency.
Amos Malka has heavily criticized the decision making process to go to war. He, as well as Peres, has found the dealing with the Palestinians in the territories – one of the reasons for
the weakened military. He believed that Prime Minister Olmert was misled by IDF, which probably assumed that it could handle such a war.
The High Court of Justice has criticized Winograd’s Committee for keeping its hearings closed doors, preventing the public of the ‘Right to Know’. The Committee’s final conclusions have no due date.
A STATE UNDER INVESTIGATION
“You open your eyes in the morning – and another catastrophic corruption hits your Face”. “Sodom and Gomorra - is here”. “ It’s a cancer spreading allover”, “Enough with the corruption!”–“The Last Days of Pompeii”. These are some of the recent Israeli Media Headlines. Wave of scandals. No exaggeration. There is not a week without a new White Collar Crime investigation of a civil servant and/or a high profile political persona.
Israel, unfortunately, has become one of the most corrupt countries of the world, sort of a
Third-world-Banana-Republic. It has even reached the “dubious honor” to reach 25th place in the rating scale of “world corruption country”, behind Jordan. (What a relief).
A shortened list of various investigations going on in Israel at the present, would demonstrate the phenomenon.
President MOSHE KATZAV. A rape suspect. He has been suspended from his post, living in his home at Kiryat Malachi. Yet, he is still fighting to hold his position, which angers most Israelis. And if this is not enough endurance for one family - his brother Lior Katzav, has been recently accused of rape and other sexual harassments of his own.
The president's lawyers have asked the evidence against Katzav to be disqualified because "there was a violation of the president's immunity", and "It was illegally collected", but the court will not accede to this demand.
And as these lines are written - a new interrogation pops up, and the police will investigate Moshe Katzv again, either for alleging another sex harassment, or concerning wiretapping, or both.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert schleps a bag of 7-8 interrogations, going on and off, for quite a long time, in addition to the Winograd Committee. The State Comptroller, Micha Lindenstraus is awaiting for him at the corner, as well. The various investigations by the police, the Comptroller, the State Attorney and the Attorney General, are relating to - among others - buying (too cheap) a too expensive apartment in Jerusalem, involvement in political illegal appointments at the Small Business Authority, and at the Investment Center, as well as in the selling negotiations of Bank Leumi. Yes, and bribing.
Olmert has lost the nation’s trust. He got only 2 percent of the public support at the polls. Many are demanding his resignation, but unless Winograd’s Committee will force him out – he is “determined to complete the four years of Public Service”. Last week Ehud Olmert delivered a dramatic-emotional speech at his Kadima party’s meeting, acknowledging that, yes, “I am unpopular, but I am here to work!”
He had gained - at least – his party’s support, though unofficially, some of his colleagues are talking about replacing him to prevent Kadima’s sinking. They say that Olmert is “living on borrowed time”. And Foreign Minister, Tzioi Livni breathes down his neck.
Finance Minister, Abraham Hirchson, Best friend and ally of Prime Minister Olmert. The new kid on the block – is under police investigation on suspicion of fraud, which is especially shocking to most Israelis not only because of its severity, but because its additional moral aspect: it relates to money stolen from the “March of the Living” project and the Holocaust. (Which, ironically, he was its founder...), Hirchson and his son have been questioning-under-caution on embezzlement of 10 million NIS (New Israeli Shekel) at NILI, a non-profit organization, associate with the right wing Histadrut of National workers that Hirchson headed. The police suspect Him of using stolen money – at least 2 million NIS out of the millions that have been stolen from NILI – that was paid to his bank account in many deposits. The story unfolds like a cheap suspense movie, of suitcases and envelopes filled with cash, and smuggling borders in Europe. Now there is a new theory that Hirchson may have been framed, after his explanation that “The
Cash envelopes had been used legally and legitimately to fund all official stays in Poland, at the March of the Living”. The General Attorney Mazuz, has said today, (Wednesday) that Hirchson will be questioned again “in the near future”.
Justice Minister, Haim Ramon. Ramon was convicted of forcibly kissing a female soldier at his office. (Often referred to as the “kiss of Death”). He resigned from his post and asked the court to erase his conviction from the record, so he will be able to resume his political career. The prosecution argued that it would send a wrong message to other women and “discourage them from filing harassment complaints”. The court’s sentence will be handed down on March 29th. In the meantime, Ramon is considered as Hirchson’s replacement if or when he will resign.
Avigdor Liberman, Strategy Minister, just off the hook? He was part of an on-going criminal investigation for illegal business connection in Russia during the 90’s.
Tzachi Hanegbi, Likud MK and head of Foreign Affairs and Security of the Knesset. “Minister who prefers personal-political considerations upon the interest of the offices he leads – embezzles people’s trust”, said the State Comptroller of Hanegbi.
As Minister for Environmental Affairs, Hanegbi had appointed hundreds Likud Central Committee members (His own party), to various jobs in the country. He admitted that he is “Champion of political appointments”, after appointing 80 Likudniks in his Environment ministry a short time after he got the position. Previously, he was a suspect of fraud, deceit and election’s bribery as well as breach of trust, but the investigation somehow had stopped. In a poll rating ‘Social Immunity’, Tzachi Hanegbi and Omri Sharon (Former MK and son of Premier Ariel Sharon), have been declared “Corrupted Champions”.
Israel Katz, Likud MK, former Agricultural Minister. The police recommend trying him for breach of trust, cronyism, misuse of power and forgery. Katz, who was interrogated twice, is now facing indictment.
The list is much longer, so permit me to mention just some outlines:
There were and still are investigations of some MK members: Ruchama Avraham, (Free flight tickets to USA, from Agresco). She paid back and was reprimanded.
Danny Nave, MK and former Health Minister – for political appointments. He recently resigned from the Knesset.
Salach Tariff, former Minister – indicted.
Shlomo Benziri, former minister of Work, Welfare and Health – was charged for receiving bribe from a constructor.
Neomi Blumenthal – former Likud MK – was sentenced to 8 months in prison, and 75 thousands NIS fine, for bribing Likud central committee members, “buying” their votes for the party’s primaries. Her sentence has been delayed for 2 months, at her request.
Yona Metzger, Chief Rabbi, (Ashkenazi) – a suspect of bribery and false testimony.
And on top: A huge scandal at the Tax Authority, involving 15 senior civil servants for bribery, fraud, political appointments and breach of trust. Among the accused are Shula Zaken, Olmert’s head of office, and her brother, Jacky Matza, one of the two directors of the Tax Authority together with Ethan Rove.
Not to mention what is going on in the police itself. The police inspector general, Moshe Kardi
Force to resign because of ‘too close relations with a crime family’. His due successor – Yaacov Ganot, former Prison Service Chief Warden, had asked to withdraw his candidacy for the police position. He realized that the Advisory Committee in wake of public criticism would reject him. Back in his past, when he commanded police at Northern Israel – Ganot was tried and convicted of bribe, breach of trust and fraud.
Cry Oh Beloved Country!
How the State of Israel / Foreign Office are dealing with these issues information wise? Ariey Mekel, the Israeli General Consul in New York didn’t return our call.
Pesach traditionally is a good time for cleanliness. Let’s hope and pray that the cleanup will start soon.
Ada Hos - Peles is an Awarded journalist. (‘Best Journalist of the Year Award’). Adhope26@hotmail.com