GUILT BY ASSOCIATION?
by Elyakim Ha'etzni
Arutz Sheva Israel National Radio Broadcast on Jan. 31, 1999 / Sh'vat 24, 5759
When members of an IDF Nachal unit were taken captive by terrorists, the battalion commander, who had been serving in his post for a mere two weeks, was immediately removed. In another instance, when a soldier was killed in a training accident, his commander was let go. Yet another commander was given his walking papers when members of an IDF reconnaissance company died of dehydration. Not one of those military figures was permitted the kind of claim utilized this past week by Prime Minister Barak in response to the Comptroller's report on the Labor party's fictitious associations: "I didn't know... I was not involved. I wasn't updated."
In the army - Ehud Barak's home turf - senior commanders are generally expected to answer for what takes place under them. In the domestic political sphere, too, which Barak now calls his home, State Comptroller Goldberg rejected Barak's "I was not personally involved" speech last week, noting that such an approach does simply not suffice.
The question is asked: Where did Barak learn the norm of evading responsibility by blaming his aides and advisors?
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Barak and company claim that they honestly relied on a legal opinion, according to which it was permissible to receive monies from associations for a Prime-Ministerial campaign. If so, why then did they choose the following names for their associations: "The Association for the Promotion of Cab Drivers," "The Negev Now," "Let Us Work With Dignity," "Education for the Future of Kiryat Bialik"? Why did they not channel this money - which they believed was perfectly legal to receive - to more open, legal bodies, such as the "Barak for Prime Minister" association?
Moreover, if their behavior was indeed ethical, why did Amiram Goldblum and Atty. Ehud Segev - the chairmen of "Citizens of the Right and Left" association - refuse to answer the Comptroller's questions? Their refusal resulted in a police investigation against them, at the behest of Atty.-Gen. Rubenstein. And why did "Dor Shalom" association chairman Doron Tamir, who also served as the conduit for the transfer of 620,700 shekels for the posting of One Israel party signs - tell the Comptroller that he felt he was used "as a marionette" of the Barak Prime-Ministerial campaign?
BARAK IN STATE OF DENIAL
"I wasn't involved in fundraising," Barak told Israelis minutes after the report was published. Mr. Barak better start thinking how he is going to explain away JTA correspondent Tom Tugend's March 25, 1999 report - written less than two months before the elections - which states that Barak delivered a fundraising speech before some 30 guests of billionaire Chaim Saban in the latter's Beverly Hills mansion. According to Tugend, "...although no accurate figure on the amount raised was available, those invited were given to understand that $10,000 would be the minimum donation expected. In addition, Saban pledged to match every dollar contributed."
I propose that State Comptroller Goldberg investigate another problem that surfaces from his report, namely, the decision-making process in both the police department and the State Attorney's office. Were complaints not lodged before these bodies - petitions that included all of the criminal components of the fictitious associations - months ago? How is it possible that the police and the State Prosecution threw such information into the trash bin, for reasons of "lack of evidence" or "lack of public interest?" Are we to believe that the rise of a party and its leader to power by way of illegal foreign donations is not an issue of public interest?
And as to the "lack of evidence", how do the police obtain evidence? Through investigation, of course! When the police caught wind of possible illegal actions taken by Binyamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem contractor Avner Amedi several months ago, they did not have all the evidence for an indictment. A police department with integrity functions like a dentist: When a patient arrives at the clinic, complaining of pains in one tooth, the dentist checks his entire mouth. In the case of Netanyahu, the police investigated a transport issue only to discover that Netanyahu may have been involved in another episode - that of keeping gifts he had received while serving as Prime Minister.
What body will now investigate for us the Police-State Prosecution neglect, until now, of the Barak associations scandal?
In the Netanyahu-Amedi affair, the police placed heavy pressure on contractor Amedi to agree to testify against Netanyahu in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Question: Will the police and Attorney General offer immunity to Herzog, Silberstein and others in exchange for their agreement to testify against Barak?
This past week, we have been hearing some of those in the Barak camp bemoaning the developments while simultaneously worrying what will be of the "Peace Process" and the Golan referendum if the Prime Minister is forced to waste his time on criminal investigations?
There was a time when hypocritical and self-proclaimed moralists hid behind excuses of "security" to cover up their illegal behavior. In today's Israel, the "security" excuse has been replaced by a different excuse - the "Peace Process."
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Former Techiya MK Elyakim Haetzni is an attorney living in Kiryat Arba. He has a weekly spot on Arutz-7, and writes a column for Yediot Acharonot.