Analysis: Left in political purgatory

Tzahi Hanegbi hoped to be completely exonerated, instead he walked out of the courtroom positioned in political purgatory.

July 14, 2010 06:10
2 minute read.
MK TZAHI Hanegbi speaks at a press conference yest

hanegbi 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi went into the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday hoping to be completely exonerated with a ruling that would have certified him as kosher and not corrupt.

Instead, he walked out of the courtroom positioned in political purgatory.

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The judges have not decided whether his perjury conviction involves the moral turpitude that would force him to quit the Knesset.

They won’t decide for the next month and a half because they are going on vacation.

They won’t decide the month after that, either, because of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Succot and Simhat Torah. Between now and October, when the judges will probably decide his fate, Hanegbi has a lot of praying to do.

Even after the judges issue their ruling, the State Attorney’s Office can still decide to appeal, which would mean another year in which he will have one foot in the Knesset and the other in a courtroom.

It is no wonder he pleaded with the State Attorney’s Office not to appeal during a Knesset press conference that seemed to be aimed more at his own judges and the legal establishment than at the reporters in the room or the voters at home.

This political waiting game is not new for Hanegbi, who has endured four other criminal investigations. Every time he seemed poised to climb the political ladder, another legal obstacle kept him in his place or forced him down a rung or two.

For instance, when then-attorney- general Elyakim Rubinstein decided not to press charges against him in the Derech Tzlecha affair in March 2001 and then-prime minister Ariel Sharon appointed him environment minister, he invited hundreds of Likud Central Committee members to a banquet hall to celebrate.

That event set the stage for the next investigation and a trial that became the longest in Israel’s history.

Sharon said in private conversations that he saw Hanegbi as his eventual successor, not Ehud Olmert or Tzipi Livni, who came after him at the helm of Kadima.

Sharon promoted Hanegbi to the Transportation and Public Security portfolios, and he would have kept on promoting him had circumstances not prevented it.

That this potential might never be fulfilled is the real tragedy of Tzahi Hanegbi. He could have been one of the nation’s leaders, and he still might be. But instead, he appears stuck in perpetual political purgatory.

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