Mazuz indicts Hanegbi for political appointments

Former minister's charges include fraud and bribery.

tzahi hanegbi 248 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
tzahi hanegbi 248 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) said Tuesday he will not ask the Knesset to uphold his parliamentary immunity following a decision by Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz earlier in the day to indict him for allegedly making dozens of political appointments while he was environment minister. Mazuz informed Hanegbi, currently the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, that he was indicting him for making 80 political appointments to the Environment Ministry between 2001 and 2003, when he belonged to the Likud. The indictment includes charges of fraud, breach of trust, election bribery, providing false testimony and lying under oath. Hanegbi released a statement saying he had informed Knesset House Committee chairwoman Ruhama Avraham that he was waiving his parliamentary immunity and that he hoped legal procedures would begin without further delay. After an investigation by police and the state prosecution that lasted a year and a half, Mazuz announced on February 2 that he had decided to indict Hanegbi, conditional on the outcome of a hearing to be granted him. The hearing was held on July 2. "The arguments that Hanegbi raised through his lawyer [Ya'acov Weinroth] were examined carefully but, in the end, it was decided not to change the decision to indict him," Mazuz wrote. According to the indictment, "During his tenure at the Environment Ministry, the defendant acted in a deliberate and systematic way, personally and through others led by [Shmuel] Hershkovitz [his personal adviser and later ministry director-general], to bring about the appointment of members of the [Likud] central committee and those close to them (sons, daughters and friends) to as many positions and jobs as possible in the Environment Ministry and in bodies connected to it, while prejudicing the chances of the general public to compete for these positions and jobs and, sometimes, without making sure the appointees were skilled and suitable." The indictment maintains that the appointments injured the public good, including "damaging the principle of equality in work and in the public service, staining the public service with an element of politics and political parties, harming the quality of employees in the public service and the quality of the service provided to the public, causing injury to the ethical standards of the public service, harming public confidence in the public service and injuring the hierarchy of the ministry." Hanegbi allegedly did all this "with the aim of winning the affection and political support of the central committee members and of strengthening his political power in the central committee." According to the indictment, Hanegbi also lied about his connection to a campaign publication released on December 8, 2002, ahead of the April 2003 Likud primary, which boasted that Hanegbi had established "a national record for appointing Likud members." The ad included the names of 74 supposed party members who had been given jobs in the ministry and claimed that Hanegbi "was personally in charge of the work [of appointing Likud cronies] and made certain that our people filled every vacant position." According to the charges, Hanegbi lied in response to a petition to the High Court of Justice demanding that the ad be retracted when he claimed he had not had anything to do with it. In his response to the petition, Hanegbi wrote that he didn't find anything wrong with appointing Likud members "as long as their appointments are carried out in accordance with the accepted procedures at the ministry." He also said an "absolute majority" of appointments he proposed were rejected by the ministry's professional staff and an "absolute majority of employees hired during his tenure were neither connected to him nor proposed by him." "Hanegbi did not appointment anyone," he wrote. "All he did was to suggest candidates, just as ministers from all the parties in all the ministries did for many, many years." Even the police investigators made it clear that the procedures for making appointments were unclear, he added. Mazuz published new guidelines following the Hanegbi case. Regarding the campaign ad that sparked the investigation, Hanegbi wrote that it was rife with errors. "It is inconceivable that the minister would be responsible for publishing a list full of inaccuracies and mistakes, including mistakes regarding people who worked directly with him," he said.