Court won't ask Peres to reply to petition

The High Court of Justice on Thursday gave the attorney-general and the Knesset Ethics Committee 60 days to reply to a petition demanding that President Shimon Peres return $320,000 in campaign contributions, but did not ask Peres himself to reply. The petition was filed on Wednesday by the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel and MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union/NRP). The petitioners demanded that Peres give back the money as he had been advised to do by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss in a report on campaign funding for primaries for party leadership conducted by the Likud and Labor prior to the 2006 national election. Peres ran and lost against Amir Peretz for the Labor leadership in November 2005. "The petitioners maintain that Mr. Peres must fulfill the state comptroller's recommendation and return the money to the contributors because even if the contributions were legal, they stink," wrote Attorney Yitzhak Bam on behalf of the petitioners. "In terms of the Political Parties Law, Peres acted according to the letter of the law but acted against its spirit. In terms of the Civil Service Law, while it is true that he did not receive the contributions because of his status as a public servant but rather as a candidate, they were meant to help him reach a high position as a public servant and that is problematic." A Peres spokeswoman said she had no comment on the allegations included in the petition. The committee dropped the investigation when Peres was elected president on the grounds that it was not of public interest.