Ben-Eliezer accused of 'volts for votes'

Scam of electricity-for-support in Labor primary alleged; Barak ahead in poll.

binyamin ben eliezer (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
binyamin ben eliezer
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer connected 175 buildings in seven Israeli Arab towns to electricity on Tuesday, the day after the first round of the Labor primary, to thank Arab voters for supporting former prime minister Ehud Barak, the NRG Web site and Channel 10 said Thursday. According to the reports, Ben-Eliezer wrote a letter ordering the director-general of his ministry to connect the buildings; 43 were in Yafia, in the Galilee, where Barak won 76 percent of the vote. Ben-Eliezer's office released a statement calling the reports "baseless lies" and describing a long and arduous bureaucratic process of connecting buildings to electricity. "Such processes are undertaken with no connection whatsoever to any election as the reports misleadingly suggest," the statement read. "There is a limit to the nonsense and mudslinging in an election. The minister will keep on fighting for the rights of Israeli Arabs and he is proud of his years of support for them." Barak has passed MK Ami Ayalon, his challenger in Tuesday's Labor leadership runoff race, among party members who say they will vote, according to a Shvakim Panorama poll broadcast on Israel Radio Thursday. The survey found that if the race was held now, Barak would win 46.5% of the vote to Ayalon's 45.3%, with 8.2% undecided. The last Israel Radio poll a week ago predicted that Ayalon would beat Barak 42-38%. Two other polls published Thursday also found the race to be close with Barak gaining ground. A Dialogue poll had Ayalon beating Barak 47-43%, with 10% undecided, a significant change from Ayalon's 44-34% lead in last week's poll. A Teleseker poll had Ayalon and Barak tied at 45%, with 10% undecided. After following up with the undecided voters, the poll gave Ayalon a 52-48% lead. All the polls before were taken before defeated Labor candidate MK Ophir Paz-Pines endorsed Barak and outgoing Defense Minister Amir Peretz announced his support for Ayalon.