(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi will be listening intently to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s
Court ruling on Tuesday about whether he broke the law when he made 69 political
appointments between March 2001 and February 2003, as environment minister in
Ariel Sharon’s government.
RELATED:Hanegbi verdict to be handed down tomorrow
He is charged with fraud, breach of trust,
election bribery, attempts to influence those with the power to vote, perjury
and making a false oath. If convicted, Hanegbi would have to wait until
September or October for his sentencing and for the key decision about whether
his crimes involved moral turpitude, which would force him to leave the Knesset,
which he has served in since 1988.
But legal experts said on Monday that
the moral turpitude question would already be clear in Tuesday’s ruling. They
said that a conviction for bribery or perjury would likely be deemed as tainted
with moral turpitude but the other charges would not.
committee members in the Knesset cafeteria expressed concern that the court
would rule political appointments illegal. They said that even though Hanegbi
jumped ship to Kadima, the judges would in effect be deciding whether current
ministers could appoint activists from their party.
not be afraid to appoint people they trust,” one central committee member said.
“In the US, it is understood that when an administration changes, politicians
appoint people who share their views. If they have a degree and the proper
skills, why not?” A Likud minister said that following Hanegbi’s indictment, the
rules were changed retroactively. “We didn’t like it, but we can’t get
around it, so we don’t mess around anymore,” the minister said.
activist who was appointed by Hanegbi during the time in question said the
barring of political appointments made the system more corrupt, because instead
of hiring small businessmen from their party, politicians try to help confidants
of wealthy people who can contribute to their campaigns.
“Tzahi’s way was
the way it was at the time,” the activist said. “For years, only Labor people
were given political patronage positions.
“Here the Likud was giving guys
who a never had a chance the ability to work. The game changed since then, but
it can always come back.”
If Hanegbi is forced to leave the Knesset, he
would be replaced by the next name on the Kadima candidates list, Georgian-born
journalist Nino Absadze.
Should Kadima MK Eli Aflalo leave the Knesset
before the ruling on Hanegbi’s moral turpitude, to become KKL/JNF
the next name after Absadze is party activist Avner Barzani, who died
recently. That means that if both Hanegbi and Aflalo left the Knesset,
academic and former Sayeret Matkal commander Doron Avital would become
A Kadima lawmaker expressed optimism on Monday that Hanegbi would be
cleared and would win a race for the party’s leadership within a year.
sources close to Hanegbi said he did not intend to challenge current
leader Tzipi Livni.
Dan Izenberg and Mark Rebacz
contributed to this