(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch should step down as minister because of statements he made about a police investigation that is focused largely on officials from his own party, a government watchdog group said Sunday.
In a letter written to Aharonovitch on Sunday, Ometz – a movement for ethical government – said that by supporting party head Avigdor Liberman’s claim that the investigation has political motivations, it is no longer fitting for him to maintain the ministry.
“It’s unacceptable that a minister will make such a biased, harsh critique of the organization they are in charge of when it is their duty to defend it.”
They took particular notice of his statements expressing doubt that the case will be closed and won’t lead to indictments, saying it shows his bias against the investigators from one of the organizations – the Israel Police – which is under the charge of his ministry.
“This is the sixth time that an investigation has been opened against the party and its head before an election. This is a coincidence that raises questions,” Aharonovitch said in comments made Saturday.
He said that while he supports the police and prosecutors running the case “there are interested parties who want to hurt Yisrael Beytenu and are attempting to harm the party on the eve of elections.”
Aharonovitch said not a single Yisrael Beytenu MK has ever been convicted of a crime, in contrast with other parties like Kadima, Labor and Shas.
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In addition, he took issue with the fact that the investigation is being called “the Yisrael Beytenu Case,” saying that many of the people involved are not affiliated with the party and that in previous investigations individuals, not parties, were targeted.
His statements on Saturday came just days after he’d publicly expressed his support for how police have handled the case. He reiterated the fact that he was not briefed on the case before the arrests were made nor will he be updated on the case as it proceeds.
The investigation revolves around what police have described as a method hatched by Yisrael Beytenu MK Faina Kirschenbaum, officials and a former minister from the party and other associates, in which state money would be sent to local authorities and nongovernmental organizations with a “commission” sent back to Kirschenbaum and her associates.
In some of the more than 15 investigations within the case, police believe that associates of the suspects were given jobs with the organizations as a kickback for sending the funds.
Police have recruited state witnesses in the case and are confident it will lead to indictments and convictions.
Asst.-Ch. (res.) Yoav Segalovich, the former head of the Investigations Branch of the police and a close confidant of Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino criticized Aharonovitch the past week in an interview with Israel Radio, saying it is unacceptable that he had not come out publicly to criticize Liberman’s statement that the investigation was political in nature.
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