Police probe Peretz over primary payola

Yacimovich attributes corruption in internal Labor vote to former party leader, who files own Ethics Committee complaint.

Amir Peretz 370 (photo credit: Screenshot Channel 10)
Amir Peretz 370
(photo credit: Screenshot Channel 10)
The police are investigating MK Amir Peretz (Hatnua) over allegations of paying vote contractors to boost his position in the Labor primary.
National police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that on Monday, someone had approached investigators from the National Fraud Investigations Unit and given them information about apparent irregularities in the Labor Party during its primaries before the latest election.
After reviewing the information, police Investigations Unit chief Cmdr. Yoav Segelovich decided on Tuesday to launch a probe into the allegations.
Speaking at a yearly roundup of the Coastal District Police, police chief Insp.- Gen. Yohanan Danino said that on Monday, police had “received information about election fraud, and we carried out several steps and consulted with the attorney-general before deciding to open an investigation.”
He vowed that “the police won’t be a tool in the hands of any political body. The police will investigate and do their job to find the truth.”
Peretz denied being involved “actively or passively, neither in witnessing or participating” in vote purchasing.
He praised Danino for opening the investigation and called for him to complete it as quickly as possible.
The Hatnua MK also submitted a complaint to the Knesset Ethics Committee against Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich, for naming Peretz in an interview with Army Radio Tuesday morning.
Peretz, a former defense minister and Labor leader, left his party in December to join Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party, despite reaching the third spot in the Labor primary.
Though he was the one who brought Yacimovich into politics, their relationship soured, and they became bitter rivals in Labor’s 2011 leadership primary.
“Unfortunately this incident took place during the Labor primaries,” Yacimovich said, after Yediot Aharonot reported that a former senior minister was suspected of buying votes. “The senior minister is Amir Peretz. To our relief, the person who committed this act is no longer a member of the Labor Party.”
According to Peretz, Yacimovich violated Knesset ethical guidelines requiring MKs to respect their colleagues and avoid inappropriate use of their immunity and rights.
The complaint points out that while the media did not publicize the names of those involved in the vote-buying scandal, Yacimovich did, saying she “figures it’ll come out soon.”
“The attempts to sully MK Amir Peretz’s name will not succeed,” his spokeswoman said. “Everyone knows he is honest and careful. Everything described in the article relating to him never happened.”
Yacimovich took to her Facebook page to condemn the use of vote contractors, whom candidates pay to bring in votes.
“Joining a party you believe in is a values-driven, important step that allows you to participate in elections for party chairperson and its MKs,” she wrote. “In addition to the process’s advantages, there are some disgusting and upsetting phenomena like vote contractors. I strongly denounce this, and feel a deep distaste toward it and have publicly fought a war against this infection.”
Peretz has widely been expected to be the second minister from Hatnua in the next government, in light of the party’s coalition agreement giving it the Environmental Protection portfolio – leading to tension between him and MK Amram Mitzna, second on Hatnua’s list.
Mitzna said that if the former Labor leader is indicted, he should resign from the Knesset.
“I know Amir Peretz, and although we are ostensibly adversaries, I don’t think he did these things,” Mitzna added in an interview with Army Radio.
Labor MK Erel Margalit was also mentioned in reports as having paid for votes in the party’s primary, something he firmly denied.
“I was shocked to find my name in these reports. I have nothing to do with the issue, and I have never paid anyone or given anyone anything so he would vote for me,” he stated.
Margalit added that he had worked hard traveling the country to build support by personally meeting people.
“I can only guess who would be motivated to mix my name up in this matter, and I’m sure it will become clear soon that I have no connection to it,” Margalit said.
Former ministers Ghaleb Majadle and Salah Tarif, who did not make it into the Knesset, were also named as Labor candidates suspected of paying vote contractors.
Meanwhile, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat took advantage of the news about Labor to continue her campaign for the cancellation of primaries in the Likud.
Livnat gathered signatures of 37 mayors and Likud chapter chairmen who supported her cause, including Ashdod Mayor Yehiel Lasri, Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg and Modi’in Mayor Haim Bibas.