AG Avihai Mandelblit and State Attorney Shai Nitzan on Monday decided there was sufficient evidence to indict Former Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, former Deputy Minister Faina Kirshenbaum, and fourteen additional senior members of public institutions pending a hearing, Walla reported. According to a State Prosecution announcement, Misezhnikov and Kirshenbaum are likely to face corruption charges.
The initial charges were revealed in the 2013 State Auditor report on Misezhnikov’s conduct regarding various bids estimated at millions of dollars under his authority, which he was accused of steering towards people in his close circle. The investigation revealed that Misezhnikov approved million dollar budgets for projects on condition that they would employ his confidant Julia Root, at the time he was serving as Tourism Minister. The Auditor’s report also accused Misezhnikov’s chief of staff at the ministry, Limor Barzilai, of knowingly interfering with the investigation.
The State Attorney’s Office Economic Department told the legal representative of 16 suspects on Monday that their idictment is being considered pending a hearing. Misezhnikov is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, possession and use of a dangerous drug, and obstruction of justice. Deputy Minister of the Interior and the Secretary General of the Israel Beiteinu party Kirshenbaum is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, money laundering, and tax evasions.
Among the additional suspects is Director of the Organization Department of the Israel Beiteinu party David Godovsky, former Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture Rami Cohen and his wife Batya Cohen, Tamar Regional Council Head Dov Litvinoff, Ayalim Association Chairman Matan Dahan, and his deputy Danny Glicksberg.
This represents the culmination of the two-year long “Case 242” that was conducted by the Investigations and Intelligence Division Lahav 433 of the National Fraud Unit, which involved the investigation of 480 individuals, the seizing of tens of thousands of documents, arrests, and more than 900 statements. So far police have also seized property in an estimated value of $6.65 million. Police have so far recruited seven state witnesses, including Gershon Mesika, who resigned his post as head of the Shomron Regional Council.
Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg Ikar was in Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court Wednesday, along with three other suspects, including a senior official in her administration and a real estate developer, to hear police request for a remand in her investigation on suspicion of corruption.
A representative of the Police told the court that “this is a convoluted and complex investigation involving serious suspicions of public corruption on the highest order,” which is why police were requesting a 10-day remand. In the end the court allowed a 6-day remand for the mayor, her former husband Eli Feierberg, Rabbi Shimon Sher, chairman of the local planning and construction committee, and a developer whose name was not disclosed.
Mayor Feirberg and the other three are suspected of various crimes of accepting bribes. “These are public figures who violated the public’s trust,” the police representative told the court.
During the hearing, Feirberg interfered in her attorney’s comments to the court and the judge stopped her and said, “I understand this situation is uncomfortable for you, but do let your attorney speak, he knows what he’s talking about.” Feirberg shot back, “Why? I only asked to answer all their questions.”
Police suspect high ranking officials in the Netanya municipality and their circles of associates of working to promote the interests of contractors and developers in Netanya real estate projects, in return for bribes and other gifts. These officials are suspected of operating habitually with conflicts of interest without reporting them, with everyone being involved in bribery, fraud, money laundering and tax evasions.
Since the investigation has been revealed, police have seized and frozen accounts and assets to support possible future requests for forfeiture. The investigation is being run in collaboration by the National police Unit and the Income Tax Investigations Unit.
Other suspects, in addition to Mayor Feirberg, are her son, attorney Tzafrir Feirberg, contractor and developer Avraham T’shuva, the brother of natural gas and real estate tycoon Itzhak T’shuva, Attorney Rabbi Avraham Gogig, and architect Gabi Tetro.
by Ilana Messika
Veteran Israeli politician and IDF officer Binyamin “Fuad” Ben-Eliezer died today at the age of 80 at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center due to complications of kidney disease.
“Fuad served the State of Israel for decades. He did so as a fighter, as a commander, as a public figure, and as a senior minister. I knew him and appreciated his contribution and remarkable character.”said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Many conversations with Fuad showed his concern and commitment to the future of the country that he loved so much. May he rest in peace,” he concluded.
Ben-Eliezer, born in Basra under the name Fuad, emigrated to Israel from Iraq with his family in 1950. Upon arriving in Israel, he adopted the Hebrew name Binyamin and joined the IDF, where he had a long and illustrious career.
He served in the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War before being appointed Commanding Officer in Southern Lebanon in 1977, as the IDF liaison between Israel and the Christians of Lebanon.
From 1983 to 1984, he served as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, charged with the responsibility of implementing the government’s civilian policy in Judea and Samaria and vis-a-vis the Gaza Strip.
Fuad Ben-Eliezer was also a 30-year veteran of Israeli politics. Elected in 1984 on the Yahad list, he served in the Knesset until 2014 as part of the Alignment party, which later became Labor.
In 1994, as part of his tenure as minister of construction and housing, he was sent by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as the first Israeli minister to meet with Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat.
Following the establishment of a national unity government in 2001 led by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak, Ben-Eliezer assumed the post of defense minister until he resigned in 2002 when Labor left the coalition.
In response to the second intifada, he was a central proponent of Operation Defensive Shield, the first large-scale military operation to be carried out in Judea and Samaria since the Six-Day War, He continued on to serve in various ministerial positions in the 2003, 2006, and 2009 Labor governments.
Four days prior to the Knesset vote to elect a new president in June 2014, Ben-Eliezer withdrew his candidacy for the position due to a police probe on suspicions of illegal gambling and bribes which he had allegedly received during his years in office. He officially resigned from office in December, 2014 due to health issues and to focus on clearing his name.
Opposition Chairman and Zionist Union MK Isaac Herzog related, “I had recently conducted many conversations with Fuad about the cloud that surrounded him at the end of his life and he repeatedly insisted he was innocent.
“He was a fearless fighter and a Labor party leader who died surrounded by many admirers and friends,” Herzog concluded.
Ben-Eliezer died while his reputation was still shrouded in suspicion following a six-month police investigation. He was indicted by the Israeli attorney general in December 2015 along with 10 other suspects for accepting bribes amounting to more than $500,000 as well as money laundering, breach of trust, fraud and tax offenses.
Ben-Eliezer suffered from a severe kidney disease for which he was previously rushed to the Assaf HaRofeh hospital in Tel Aviv in serious condition, prior to his transfer to Sourasky Medical Center.
“The Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and the Israeli National Transplant Center would like to thank the family of Binyamin Ben-Eliezer for agreeing to donate the deceased’s corneas for transplant purposes.” stated Ichilov Hospital.
Binyamin “Fuad” Ben-Eliezer is survived by his wife and five children. Baruch Dayan Emet.
Jerusalem (TPS) – Chairman of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee MK David “Dudi” Amsalem (Likud) declared on Tuesday that he intends to propose a new bill during the winter session which would prohibit criminal investigation of the prime minister for minor offenses that would carry less than a six-month prison sentence.
“Being the prime minister of Israel is the most important job in the country,” wrote MK Amsalem in a Facebook post. “He cannot be busied with investigations on a daily basis. There has not been one prime minister in the last thirty years that has not been involved in investigations—from Rabin and his wife’s Dollar Account affair to Barak and the NGOs to Sharon’s Greek island, Olmert and his travels, Netanyahu and the gifts and bottles, and so on.”
The proposal also follow on the heels of the recent investigation opened against Prime Minister Netanyahu who allegedly approached an advertising office in 2007 with the aim of purchasing advertising space in the Arab press for his political war against former Labor leader Ehud Barak.
The Israel Police also recently began probing allegations that the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, had accepted expensive gifts as part of a greater corruption scheme.
“Nevertheless, since it would be inappropriate for the prime minister not to answer for those crimes, it is proposed that the duration of the rest of his term not be counted within the period of the statute of limitations and it will as such be permitted to prosecute him on the matter after his term ends.”
According to the Likud, the new law would not be applicable retroactively, meaning that it would have no effect on the investigations currently being conducted against Prime Minister Netanyahu. As such, Netanyahu’s son, Yair, is soon to be called to testify to the police about the allegations against his father.
The initiative sparked great controversy within the political arena. “No one is above the law,” said Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni. “Investigations are not detrimental to the public, but to its benefit, as it is deserving of an immaculate leadership. An honest prime minister would reject such a proposal.”
Meretz MK Zahava Galon also criticized the bill, claiming that “MK Amsalem’s proposal will turn the Prime Minister’s Office into a sanctuary for criminals.” Yesh Atid MK Karin Elharar sarcastically suggested to “just crown him Sultan.”
Members of the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee told TPS that they did not wish to comment on the matter at present.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday fielded questions he did not get a chance to read in advance from MKs, in a fashion reminiscent of the British Parliament’s Question Time. This was Netanyahu’s first-ever Question Hour appearance.
Question Hour is a new parliamentary feature in the Knesset’s plenary sessions. Each year, the opposition has the right to invite 10 ministers to answer questions they did not see in advance. One of those times, it can be the prime minister. At least three-quarters of the questioners must come from the ranks of the opposition.
MK Yael Cohen Paran (Zionist Camp) asked Netanyahu, “It was written that an allegation is being checked [by police] that your son, Yair Netanyahu, used a passport with a fake name that the Mossad gave him to open a bank account in Panama to which hundreds of thousands of dollars were funneled. I want to ask you, did your son Yair Netanyahu get a falsified passport, and in which situations can a citizen get a passport with a fake name?”
In response, Netanyahu said, “There’s no passport, no Panama, no bank account, nothing. There is a flood of foolishness, of nonsense, of fabrications, of lies. Although they’ve been dealing with this for many years, they haven’t found anything for one simple reason: there isn’t anything and there never was anything. There’s no fire and no smoke. There’s hot air – a lot of hot air. Spoiler alert – nothing will come of this, because there is nothing. Therefore, I ask all those who are asking questions and those who may have hope in their hearts: don’t hurry to have suits made. Stop the tailors. Spoiler alert – nothing will come of this, because there is nothing.”
“Since there are those who are still interested in all sorts of things like this, I want to give you all a tip: In the beginning of September I am going to Holland and afterwards I’m continuing to the UN General Assembly,” Netanyahu continued. “Since I’ve noticed that these piles (of nonsense) usually come in certain proximity to my political travels, here I’m giving you the time to come up with new things.”
Netanyahu told the House he was delighted to have this opportunity to speak to the MKs, whom he said asked better and more challenging questions than the press does. “I’m enjoying every minute,” he said, and looked it.
Addressing a question by MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) on the anti-gay remarks made by Rabbi Yigal Levinstein and why he did not address them, PM Netanyahu said “I’m not a professional internet commentator and neither do I work on MK Zandberg’s schedule, but the comments are unacceptable. The LGBT community is part of us. They are citizens like everyone else. Israel needs to be a home for all Jews.”
Asked by MK Esawi Frej (Meretz) whether he would “launder the land theft in Amona,” the prime minister said “I do not support the laundering or appropriation of lands anywhere, and I suggest that you be careful when using such terms, because they apply to many places. The court ruled that [the Jewish settlement Amona in Samaria] should be evacuated, even if there is no specific ownership over it. It is private land, but it is not known who it belongs to exactly.”
“Amona is a matter of doing justice in an issue that’s been going on for many years. Several proposals have come up, and the Defense Minister asked for a few days to examine the matter. All involved parties would like to see a settlement rather than anything else.”
MK David Amsalem (Likud) asked PM Netanyahu about the US Senate report establishing that the US State Department had interfered with the previous Israeli elections by funding the V-15, or “Victory in 2015” organization, which operated with the explicit goal of causing Netanyahu to lose the election. “I want to explain what is improper about V15,” Netanyahu said. “We have non-profits that need to work with the minimum transparency, but there is one thing that we cannot accept – bypassing the election law. How does the [election] financing law work in Israel? It sets out how each party should fund its election [campaign]. The law limits the amounts. V15 bypassed this. How? They said ‘we’re not giving to a party but rather opposing a party.'”
Netanyahu said the money was used to influence the results of last year’s Knesset election. “We in Likud complained about this loophole and didn’t get relief from the court. It’s clear to me that this is intervention. These are huge sums. This needs to be stopped, for everyone, by the way.”
Addressing a question by MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) on the conversion crisis, PM Netanyahu said, “The rabbinate is not mine. It was established in arrangement in the State of Israel from the time [the country] was established and even before that. I can’t tell you that I have managed to reach a consensus. I haven’t.”
MK Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Camp) asked Netanyahu about the “expulsion bill.” Netanyahu said, “In the United States [a legislator) can be dismissed with a small majority without any explanation. I believe that in Israel’s Knesset there cannot be MKs who support terror or the annihilation of Israel.”
MK Hilik Bar (Zionist Camp) mentioned a video clip from a 1990s talk show that resurfaced recently, in which Netanyahu said he supports a two-term limit for prime ministers.
Netanyahu – who is now on his fourth term, third consecutive one – said “When I made that remark I was referring to direct elections [for prime minister]. There are restrictions if someone is elected in the presidential system. I voted in favor of changing the system of government in contrast with my party’s position. If you strengthen governance, limit the number of terms, and if you do not strengthen governance, do not limit the number of terms.”
MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint Arab List) asked Netanyahu what his diplomatic plan was. “The desirable solution for us is a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state,” he said, adding that the Arab League’s peace initiative could be a basis for peace talks with the Palestinians, but only in a revised form.
“If it’s a script, then certainly we cannot [agree to it]. If it’s a basis to open talks, then sure,” he said.
German technology giant Siemens AG has agreed to pay Israel $44 Million to settle a charge that it bribed executives at the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to win a bid to supply turbines from 1999 to 2005, Israel’s Justice Ministry announced Monday. The company has also agreed to appoint an external inspector to supervise its business in Israel.
“We are pleased that the Israeli State Authorities chose to have an arrangement that does not include an indictment against Siemens AG recognizing…. that Siemens fully cooperated in the course of the investigation,” Siemens said in an e-mailed statement.
Siemens AG says it plans to continue its business in Israel on a major scale, including purchasing Israeli products and services and investing in Israeli companies.
Six IEC executives are facing charges in Tel Aviv court for bribery and money laundering. They are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash bribes or, for the discriminating corrupt officials, transfers to their Swiss bank accounts.
Last October a former finance officer for Siemens in Argentina admitted to paying $100 million in bribes to government officials to secure a contract to produce national identity cards.
And prosecutors in Germany are investigating Siemens for allegedly charging $2.2 million for work that was never done at Berlin’s long-delayed new airport.
Israel Police say they plan to advise Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to close the department’s investigation into the allegations of wrongdoing by Opposition Leader and MK Isaac Herzog.
News of the impending recommendation was broadcast on Israel’s Channel 2 television news on Sunday night (April 24).
The probe into accusations of possible fundraising violations in Herzog’s 2013 campaign for Labor Party leadership by the Zionist Union leader began last month.
Herzog was questioned under caution by investigators on April 17, Channel 2 reported, and there have been no deliberations thus far on the case in the attorney general’s office.
Although police do not make the decision about whether or not to file an indictment, they can and often do make recommendations to the attorney general based on the evidence amassed during their investigation. The Israel Police LAHAV 433 branch is in charge of this investigation.