tzahi hanegbi 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Tzahi Hanegbi, said on Monday he would not suspend himself from his post, even though the state prosecution had filed an indictment against him earlier in the day at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court.
In the first charge against him, Hanegbi is accused of fraud and breach of trust, election bribery and attempting to influence a voter. In the second, he was accused of perjury and making a false oath.
His right-hand man, Shmuel Hershkowitz, was charged with fraud and breach of trust.
The events referred to in the indictment occurred between March 7, 2001, and February 27, 2003, when Hanegbi served as minister of the environment under prime minister Ariel Sharon. He was charged with appointing 49 workers to the Environment Ministry and another 20 to jobs in bodies connected to the ministry "who belonged to the Likud Central Committee or their relatives, and several others who were close to the minister personally."
The Movement for Quality Government called on the Knesset House Committee to immediately suspend Hanegbi from his post. "There is in the indictment an important, basic message according to which it is a criminal act to turn the public service into a bank for political appointments and favors, and this must be rejected," the organization wrote in a statement to the press.
There is no provision in legislation or judicial ruling that calls for the suspension of an MK who chairs a parliamentary committee if he is indicted on criminal charges. However, according to a provision of the House Rules, a majority of members of the House Committee may vote to suspend the chairman of a parliamentary committee if it so desires.
Meanwhile, Hanegbi himself told Israel Radio that he would not suspend himself. "I have already been punished and have been punished every day for almost three years now," he said. "I left the Ministry of Internal Security so that there would not be a conflict of interests between the police and me. I am not a member of the current government, even though I was supposed to be. As far as the Knesset is concerned, the High Court ruled specifically on this matter that one should not add further punishment to a person who enjoys the presumption of innocence. I deny the charges against me."
According to the indictment, "during his tenure at the Environment Ministry, the defendant acted in a deliberate and systematic way, personally and through others led by Shmuel] Hershkowitz, to bring about the appointment of members of the [Likud] central committee and those close to them (sons, daughters and friends) to as many positions and jobs as possible in the Environment Ministry and in bodies connected to it, while prejudicing the chances of the general public to compete for these positions and jobs and, sometimes, without making sure the appointees were skilled and suitable."