MK Yitzhak Herzog, chairman of the Zionist Camp (Labor) party and leader of the Knesset opposition, on Sunday was interrogated with a warning by the police anti-corruption unit Lahav 433 on suspicion of receiving illegal donations, failing to report donations and providing a false affidavit. The interrogation focuses on Herzog’s activity during the primaries for Labor Party Chairmanship in 2013, when he competed against incumbent chairman MK Shelly Yachimovich. The special police unit received the approval of Attorney Genral Avichai Mandelblit to pursue the interrogation.
Police want to know whether Herzog set up a parallel campaign center whose assignment was to find out and publish dirt on Yachimovich. Police suspect that Herzog funded that “dark headquarters” through copanies and business people whose interests he had served as minister of social services.
In May 1999 police investigated former prime minister Ehud Barak over alleged violations of the Party Funding Law, which later involved the interrogation with a warning of Herzog, who then served as cabinet secretary. In his interrogation Herzog maintained his right to keep silent. The prosecution eventually decided to close the case against Herzog, despite police objections. At the time Herzog was criticized severely for his conduct both during the campaign and in his interrogation by AG Elyakim Rubinstein (now Supreme Court Justice) and state prosecutor Edna Arbel (former Supreme Court Justice). But despite their rebuke, they let him get away with it.
Herzog’s office issued the statement: “Head of the opposition and chairman of the Zionist Camp MK Yitzhak Herzog arrived this morning to offer his version of events in response to a request from law enforcement officials. From the moment his investigation had been leaked, Herzog stressed and requested to be allowed to offer his version of events in order to leave the matter behind him, which he has done. Herzog has full confidence in the law enforcement officials and he is grateful for their dignified and decent conduct.”
MK Yachimovich said on Sunday that she is “convinced Herzog has the best interests of the party and the opposition on his mind.” She promised to “act in cooperation with him and with my colleagues in the party to decide what steps to take next. There is no doubt that an interrogation with a warning of the chairman of the party and the opposition makes the situation worse. I trust completely the police and law enforcement authorities.”
Last week Herzog referred to the possibility that he would be invited for an interrogation with a warning and said that the job of a leader is to “deal with crises, deal with criticism and also deal with libel.” Speaking at a ceremony of raising a glass in honor of the approaching Passover organized by MK Amir Peretz, Herzog added that “there are few leaders who have endured personal and political upheavals, absorbed nasty criticism, dealt bravely with a complex reality and still managed to carve out one of the most impressive success stories in military history ever — I believe Amir is familiar with all of the above up close.”
As defense minister, Amir Peretz endured a punishing war against Hezbollah in Lebanon and was ridiculed worldwide for looking through a pair of covered binoculars pretending to be seeing something. Eventually, though, he made his reputation as the man who dreamed up the concept of Iron Dome, the computerized defense system that allows Hamas to continue amassing and shooting rockets at Israeli civilian centers without Israel’s having to retaliate for it because few civilians are ever hurt.
Herzog told his party pals on that occasion: “You’ve followed me since I entered politics, you know my clean hands and honesty are the values in whose light I’ve walked and in which I believe. Since the announcement of the authorities’ looking into the party primaries became public knowledge, I’ve been telling all of you, publicly and personally, that this is part of the role of a leader: to also deal with libels that always rise up on the eve of elections. The job of the leader is to deal, lead and win. You elected me to lead this party and this camp towards governing and I intend to continue marching on this path, even if it is difficult and full of obstacles.”