Bennett: I hired investigators to track voter fraud

Contractor Amrusi says paid by Likud Beytenu MK; Bayit Yehudi leader reveals he ordered probe of illegal votes.

Bennett voting 22.1.13  (photo credit: Reuters/Nir Elias)
Bennett voting 22.1.13
(photo credit: Reuters/Nir Elias)
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett admitted to hiring private investigators leading to the police probe of MK Nissan Slomiansky for allegedly buying votes.
Writing on Facebook on Tuesday, Bennett said he wanted to update his supporters on the matter.
“Over six months ago, the Bayit Yehudi membership drive began... During the membership drive we heard suspicions about the purity of the process and activity by vote contractors enlisting large numbers of illegal votes,” Bennett wrote.
“After the information reached me, I ordered a thorough investigation of the vote contractors, which concentrated only on the purity of the membership drive. As a result of the investigation, thousands of illegal membership forms were disqualified.”
The findings of the probe were brought to the police.
Meanwhile, Avichai Amrusi, the vote contractor allegedly paid by Slomiansky, said that he was also paid by a Likud Beytenu MK, according to reports by channels 2 and 10 on Tuesday. It is unclear if Amrusi and his lawyers relayed this information to the police, but they are likely to be interested in a plea bargain, and in order to receive one, they have to be willing to give more information to the authorities.
A spokesman for the Likud Beytenu MK said the accusations are baseless and the police is not investigating the lawmaker.
The MK said he met Amrusi at campaign events, but that he is not a major Likud activist and did not have any connection to him.
The vote contractor told private investigator Nisim Garameh that he registered 4,000 people in the Bayit Yehudi’s membership drive, and Slomiansky paid NIS 125,000 to his yeshiva.
Bennett wrote that he does not know why the police’s investigation of Slomiansky reached the press on Monday, but that he hopes it will end as soon as possible “so the unpleasant story can be put behind us.”
The Bayit Yehudi leader explained that “vote contractors” are people who recruit new party members who don’t care about the party and do whatever the contractor, who paid them, says.
“This is an illegal action that corrupts parties, because, instead of the membership drive expressing the will of the public, it gives great power to a small amount of people,” he said.
“This is one of the major problems of the primary system. Unfortunately, it reached us, too.”
Bennett added that he is proud of his actions, which “kept the membership drive clean,” and that part of the party’s slogan, “something new is beginning,” is to speak out against corruption.
“When faced with unacceptable phenomena, we must take responsibility and act. We cannot stand silent,” he wrote, echoing statements he made earlier Tuesday at a Bayit Yehudi faction meeting.
Bennett also said he stands behind all of his party’s MKs, but when Slomiansky walked into the Bayit Yehudi faction meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Bennett did not shake his hand until immediately after a party strategist whispered something in his ear.
Earlier Tuesday, Slomiansky said he is certain Bennett did not leak the investigation to the press.
“I see the fingerprints of those who would be happy if my [No. 3] place on the [Bayit Yehudi] list were left open to other people,” he told Army Radio.
Due to his high spot on the party list, Slomiansky is a possible candidate to be the Bayit Yehudi’s third minister.
However, last week, the party’s Central Committee gave Bennett the power to choose ministers himself, and he is thought to prefer MK Uri Orbach.
Slomiansky’s attorney, Rachel Torren, asked Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein to speed up the investigation as much as possible, in order to clear his name.