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hanegbi 311.(Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Netanyahu and Barak join long list of Hanegbi proponents
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
09/16/2010
Court to hear testimony today on whether Kadima MK is guilty of moral turpitude that could bar him from politics.
On the eve of the most crucial part of MK Tzahi Hanegbi’s sentencing for having given false testimony, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak rallied to support their political rival by adding their signatures to a growing pile of letters asking the court to clear him of moral turpitude.

A finding of guilty would exclude Hanegbi from holding elected office in the coming years.

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Barak, who has faced off against Hanegbi for many years, wrote in a letter to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court that “since 2007, when I returned to serve as defense minister, I have worked shoulder to shoulder with MK Hanegbi as part of his service as chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on a very wide variety of sensitive and important issues. The extent of his experience, his bipartisan perspective, his great success in his position and the discretion that characterize him stood after the 2009 elections at the basis of my willingness – in consultation with the prime minister – to retain his position at the head of this important committee despite the fact that he is an opposition member.”

Barak added that he believed the court should “consider” determining that Hanegbi had not committed an act of moral turpitude. In July, the MK was cleared of a number of the original charges listed in his indictment, but was found guilty of making false testimony in a probe by the State Comptroller’s office that concerned over 100 political appointments made while he served as a minister for the Likud Party.

Hanegbi’s political career was put on hold while he first awaited trial. The July ruling kept his political future uncertain: Had he been found guilty of two additional charges in the indictment – fraud and violation of the public trust – his fate would have been clearer.

Today, however, the future of Hanegbi, considered one of the most talented politicians in the Knesset and a figure who frequently serves as a broker between opposition and coalition officials, depends on Thursday’s hearing. If he is found guilty of moral turpitude but not sentenced to prison, he must immediately resign his position in the Knesset but would be allowed to run in the next elections. If, however, he is sentenced to prison, he will have to wait seven years before being allowed to run for office again.

In addition to the letters, Hanegbi’s defense team has enlisted the support of three character witnesses to testify during the sentencing. Among those expected to testify on Thursday is former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg, also a former political opponent of Hanegbi throughout the previous decades.

Earlier this week, the Movement for Quality Government slammed what it described as “public lobbying” by prominent figures in favor of Hanegbi, labeling it as “inappropriate, degrading and embarrassing.” It launched an online petition calling for the exact opposite, for Hanegbi to be found guilty of moral turpitude. Almost 500 people have signed the petition thus far, and on Wednesday the movement stepped up its campaign, threatening to go to the Supreme Court if Hanegbi is absolved.
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