Karadi: Reports on Hirchson are inaccurate

Livni, Peres to open Kadima branch in Tel Aviv.

hirchson 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
hirchson 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson gained support from Police Inspector-General Moshe Karadi over the weekend, as rumors continued to fly regarding allegations against him of embezzlement. Karadi, speaking at a conference in Beersheba on Friday, said that much of the information mentioned in the press concerning the investigation was inaccurate. The soon-to-be-former police chief, who himself has felt the pressure of public criticism stemming from the conclusions of the Zeiler Commission, reminded police that investigations should be "carried out in investigative offices" and not through the media. Meanwhile, documents surfaced over the weekend supporting Hirchson's claim that the money he was caught with at a Polish airport was intended for the coffers of the March of the Living, and not for his own personal use. The multiple letters to Israeli banks appear to have documented cash transactions through which money was used to enable March of the Living officials to travel on documented, work-related trips overseas. It is still unclear whether the new revelations will have any impact on the considerations of Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz. Mazuz has scheduled a Wednesday meeting to decide if the evidence against the finance minister is sufficient to require his suspension. Speculation continued in the media over the weekend that Hirchson would resign and that he could be replaced by Interior Minister Roni Bar-On or former justice minister Haim Ramon. The Prime Minister's Office refused to comment on the matter. The Kadima Party spokesman and a number of MKs have urged the public not to race to prejudge Hirchson. Speaking to Channel 2's Meet the Press on Saturday, Bar-On said that the investigation was still in its initial stages. "I do not want to treat him as if he is already gone," he said. Bar-On added that Hirchson was not legally required to step down and that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was not required to ask him to do so. Bar-On said he had spoken to Hirchson on Thursday and that he was not in good spirits. So far, the only Kadima member to openly suggest it would be better for Hirchson to temporarily step aside has been MK Ronit Tirosh. She said he should do so until the investigation is completed so that Hirchson can focus on clearing his name. Tirosh has been joined in that call by Labor MKs Ami Ayalon and Eitan Cabel as well as Meretz MK Yossi Beilin. Kadima MK Otniel Schneller said, however, that the entire incident had left him with a "bad feeling" and a sense of "frustration." "I am sad because Hirchson is a good finance minister and has scored many economic achievements," Schneller said, adding that the police should have kept silent about the investigation until its conclusion. Kadima party leaders and MKs are expected to preach about the need for party unity and highlight its successes when it opens a new branch in Tel Aviv on Sunday night. Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Environment Minister Gideon Ezra, and Ministers Avi Dichter and Meir Sheetrit are all expected to speak at the event. Separately, Labor's central committee is expected to meet in Tel Aviv on Monday to discuss, among other topics, Labor MK Colette Avital's bid to replace President Moshe Katsav when his term ends this summer. On Saturday, Ayalon called for his party's central committee to support Peres for the position instead of Avital when the matter comes to a vote in the Knesset in May. He spoke in support of Peres even though the veteran politician had abandoned the party in favor of Kadima last year. To date, only Avital and former Knesset speaker and Likud MK Reuven Rivlin have stated that they are campaigning for the presidency. Peres, who lost a presidential bid to Katsav in 2000, has yet to formally announce that he wants to replace him.