Herzog attacked for condemning Kirschenbaum silence on corruption probe

"Elected officials cannot remain silent when they are questioned," Labor leader said.

January 13, 2015 20:22
2 minute read.
Isaac Herzog

Isaac Herzog. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Right-wing candidates criticized opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Tuesday for statements he made questioning the right of Yisrael Beytenu MK Faina Kirschenbaum to exercise her right to not cooperate with the criminal investigation into her alleged corruption.

In radio interviews on Tuesday morning, Herzog expressed support for law enforcement authorities probing Kirschenbaum and other Yisrael Beytenu officials. He said her decision to remain silent was illegitimate.

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“Elected officials cannot remain silent when they are questioned,” Herzog said.

Herzog’s statement was surprising because he exercised his own right to remain silent when he was investigated for his role in a fundraising scandal for Ehud Barak’s 1999 campaign for prime minister.

Then-state comptroller Eliezer Goldberg wrote a report in January 2000 in which he charged that Herzog, who was Barak’s cabinet secretary, wrote checks from the Calgary-based Kahanoff Foundation that he had worked for to nonprofit organizations in Israel that funded campaigns for Barak and against his competition, Benjamin Netanyahu. The Canadians thought the money would go to charitable efforts, but it instead paid for bumper stickers and newspaper advertisements with the message “Anyone but Netanyahu.”

The comptroller levied a fine of more than NIS 13.7 million against Barak’s Labor Party- based alliance, One Israel.

The police opened a criminal investigation in which Herzog was a central suspect. The case against him was eventually closed due to lack of evidence.

Herzog told the interviewers that his silence was different than Kirschenbaum’s because he was cabinet secretary, not an elected official. He said that because the election for prime minister was direct, the attorney- general had ruled that certain fund-raising prohibitions did not apply.

But Herzog admitted to making a mistake and said that in retrospect, he would have behaved differently.

Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Ophir Akunis said that since Kirschenbaum decided not to run for the next Knesset due in part to her decision to remain silent, Herzog should make the same decision.

“Today, after the statute of limitations has expired, Herzog should reveal to all of us why he formed the nonprofit organizations, who contributed to them and who he was trying to protect when he remained silent,” Bayit Yehudi candidate Danny Dayan said. “Herzog is hypocritical for scolding people for doing what he did. It is years too late, but the time has come for him to report to the public.”

Labor candidate Eldad Yaniv said it was funny that Akunis and Dayan were criticizing Herzog’s silence.

“They are attacking Herzog while telling people to vote for Netanyahu, who was repeatedly investigated for misusing public funds and other forms of corruption,” Yaniv said.

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