(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi expressed hope at a Knesset press conference on Tuesday that the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court would allow him to resume his political career when it decides in the fall whether his perjury conviction involved moral turpitude.
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Should the court rule that moral turpitude had indeed been involved, he would have to quit the Knesset within 48 hours and would not be allowed to return for seven years. But if the court says there was no moral turpitude, Hanegbi’s career would be allowed to get back on track immediately after six years of legal obstacles.
“In 2004, I quit a very senior government position that was challenging for me,” Hanegbi said. “I was going in the right direction politically. I could have been appointed a minister as a top finisher in primaries of two different parties. I lost out on being part of the decision-making on key national issues. I very much hope that after the sentencing, there will be no obstacle to me returning to use my energy to work for the public, as I have for 30 years. I think that’s my calling.”
Until the judges decide his political fate, Hanegbi will remain chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. He will continue to keep a low profile and not take a leading role in either political or diplomatic issues.
But if the judges decide in his favor, Hanegbi is expected to push for his Kadima party to join a national unity government, in which he might be a senior minister. He said at the press conference that he could mediate between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, both of whom have built up a relationship of trust with him.
“Tzipi Livni thinks a national unity government is good for Israel, and based on my conversations with the prime minister, he also thinks the government should be wide,” Hanegbi said. “I hope I can act as a bridge, regardless of my trial.”
Hanegbi towed his party’s line that Netanyahu would have to change his policies for Kadima to join. He said that “most of the public wants to see political harmony,” but that Netanyahu had not yet proven that he was serious about creating the Palestinian state for which he expressed support in his speech at Bar-Ilan University a year ago.
When asked whether he intended to seek the defense portfolio if Kadima joined the government instead of Labor, Hanegbi responded that current Defense Minister Ehud Barak was doing a good job and he did not want to see him lose it.
As expected, Hanegbi ruled out a run against Livni for the leadership of Kadima, but he noticeably added the words “in this term” in a sign that he sees himself as a future chairman of the party.
Hanegbi defended his decision to remain in the Knesset despite his conviction for the serious crime of perjury.
“The legislators decided what the norms are, that the court can make an MK quit for seven years if there is moral turpitude,” he said.
“There are some who say that the public should decide, not three judges,” he went on. “If the judges rule that there is no moral turpitude, I will still have to stand before the public when I run for reelection, and they will make their own decision.”
If Hanegbi is forced to leave the Knesset, he will be replaced by the next name on the Kadima list, Georgian- born journalist Nino Absadze.