(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) pleaded for his political life on Thursday,
Jerusalem District Court to reject a request by the state prosecution to
that the conduct that led to his perjury conviction on July 13
Should the court find him guilty of moral turpitude, Hanegbi,
who is chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and
player in the Kadima party, would have to immediately leave the Knesset,
although he could return if he successfully appealed the court’s
PM asks court to clear MK Hanegbi of 'moral turpitude'
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If he is found guilty of moral turpitude and sentenced to three
months or more in prison for the perjury conviction, he would be barred from
public office for seven years.
If he gets no jail time, or less than
three months, he could run for the next Knesset, even if he is found guilty of
But if the court rules that there was no moral turpitude
in Hanegbi’s conviction, he could help bring Kadima into the coalition and
eventually challenge Tzipi Livni for the party’s leadership. Hanegbi negotiated
a deal to bring Kadima into the coalition before the current government was
formed, but Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to include Labor
Even if the court ruled that there was no moral turpitude, the
prosecution could still appeal Hanegbi’s exoneration on other charges so he
still would not be out of legal trouble.
“I conduct public campaigns.
During 30 years I have made mistakes,” Hanegbi said during his statement to the
“The last seven years have been difficult.
The longer you
don’t see the end, the harder things get.”
In 2002, then-environmental
protection minister Hanegbi, who was a Likud MK at the time, published a party
flyer that contained the names of dozens of party members who had been appointed
to positions in his ministry.
The flyer, published shortly before a Likud
primary, raised suspicions that the appointments were improper, and in 2004,
then-state comptroller Eliezer Goldberg ruled that the appointments were
When Hanegbi was asked by the Central Elections
Committee whether he had authored the flyer, he denied any link to its
publication. In July, the Jerusalem District Court found Hanegbi guilty of
providing false testimony to the committee, but cleared him of bribery
The court must deliver its verdict soon, and prosecutors are
asking that Hanegbi be ejected from the Knesset and receive a suspended prison
“The hardest part is... that even if you feel that your
innocence will prevail, the people dearest to you pay the price, and the effect
this has on them is very painful,” Hanegbi told the court on
The Jerusalem District Court has in recent days received
letters pleading Hanegbi’s case from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense
Minister Ehud Barak and other senior public officials, asking the judges not to
convict him of moral turpitude.
But prosecutors on Thursday asked the
court to disregard the letters, adding that Hanegbi’s actions clearly
constituted moral turpitude.
“The court cannot make a ruling on moral
turpitude based on public support in one party or another,” prosecutor Erez
Padan told the court. “Moral turpitude is a legal determination, and testimonies
of good deeds by the accused are irrelevant to moral turpitude.”
political rival of Hanegbi’s, said in his letter to the court, “Since 2007, when
I returned to serve as defense minister, I have worked shoulder to shoulder with
MK Hanegbi... on a very wide variety of sensitive and important issues. The
scope of his experience, his bipartisan perspective, his great success in his
position, and the discretion that characterize him formed... the basis of my
willingness – in consultation with the prime minister – to retain him as the
head of this important [Foreign Affairs and Defense] committee, despite the fact
that he is an opposition member.”
National Union MK Arye Eldad criticized
Hanegbi for using his position as chairman of Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee to prevent deliberations on key issues. He accused Hanegbi of
pandering to Netanyahu and Barak for their support in his legal
Earlier this week, the Movement for Quality Government slammed
“public lobbying” by prominent figures in favor of Hanegbi, labeling it
“inappropriate, degrading and embarrassing.”
On Wednesday, the movement
stepped up its campaign, threatening to go to the Supreme Court if
let off.Gil Hoffman and Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report.