Faina Kirschenbaum .
(photo credit: KNESSET)
A police investigation of alleged corruption made Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirschenbaum’s life impossible, and she chose on Monday to spend her time proving her innocence rather than running for the Knesset.
Kirschenbaum was arrested last month together with dozens of others, on suspicion of a litany of graft-related crimes in what is being referred to as one of the biggest corruption cases in the history of the state.
“For over two weeks, my name and photo have not left the headlines.
I was publicly and personally condemned before my trial. [The] police and media already judged me, convicted me, and sent me to Devil’s Island and no one spoke up – not police officers, not the State Attorney’s Office, not the Press Council. Everyone is silent,” she recounted.
Kirschenbaum added that she “respects the rule of law and the requirement of law authority to investigate, as long as it is done appropriately while respecting human dignity and basic values.”
In her resignation message, Kirschenbaum said that since the police questioned her on December 24, “there is a character assassination and a war of attrition against me, severely harming me, my family and everyone who surrounds me.”
According to the deputy minister, her bank accounts were blocked and she cannot pay her bills or buy groceries. Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein leaked a letter to the media hinting she obstructed the investigation and that NIS 2 million she and her husband inherited and declared, was presented as a “sensational” find by the police.
In addition, she wrote, police blocked her elderly mother’s bank account, leaving her in danger of having her power, water and phone disconnected.
“My feeling is that the purpose of the police investigation is not to reveal the truth; rather that police shot the arrow and are now drawing a bulls-eye around it. My investigation is meaningless, since I was already judged, convicted and condemned by the investigators and the public,” Kirschenbaum added.
Therefore, she plans to retain her right to remain silent and will not run for a place in the next Knesset and leave public life “to invest my time in defending my innocence and rehabilitating my family.”
Kirschenbaum did not resign from the current Knesset.
Party leader Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman accepted Kirschenbaum’s resignation, calling it unfortunate.
“As someone who, for almost 20 years, was subjected to persecution and false accusations, I know what you are going through and how difficult it is for you and your family,” he told her. “I accept your resignation with a heavy heart and knowing that foreign considerations by people with interests caused it.” Liberman added that he hopes Kirschenbaum will return soon and that her innocence will be proven.
MK Miki Rosenthal (Labor) pointed out the irony that a party that fought to raise the electoral threshold may not pass it because of the corruption scandal.
The current threshold is 3.25 percent, which in most cases is a four-seat minimum. Yisrael Beytenu’s average in last week’s polls was 6.6 seats, a far cry from the 13 seats it currently holds.
“Every corrupt person who drops out of the Knesset is a small victory for the Israeli public. Even though these are only allegations at this stage, Kirschenbaum’s departure heralds the impending fall of Yisrael Beytenu, part of which acts like a criminal organization,” he said.
Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir is also expected to leave politics and several people connected to his ministry were implicated in the corruption investigation.