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Scandals and the Media

01 November 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

The election campaign in Israel is ‘disasterizing’.  Both Labor and the Likud are vying to see who can lose more votes faster in the overall polling.  First Labor chose Amram Mitzna as their candidate to ensure the center would look elsewhere for leadership, giving both the Likud and Shinui a boost.  But the Likud refused to be outdone and put on the ‘show’ at their primaries convention, proving they knew how to screw things up as well.  On the political, diplomatic front PM Sharon and Co. were way ahead of the Left looking at a landslide victory.  Labor tried making some noises about the economy but no one was really interested.  The Likud was in power and despite the terrorism and reserve duty call-ups they had gained the public trust.

So to make up for any positive feelings the Likud the primaries battle was marred with accusations of corruption including bribes, kickbacks, illegal vote buying and a lot of double crosses.  In the end Likudniks went to the police because they were asked to give bribes or came in contact with other suspected criminal activities.  The police are holding back full investigations until after the elections.  In addition the party list is made up of quite a few right wingers and unknowns who appear to have no political experience.

Labor is trying to have a field day on the corruption issue but first they expect the Israeli public to suffer from amnesia and not remember the corruption and police investigation in the Avraham Burg – Benyamin Ben Eliezer run off of last year.  The election took place twice with Ben Eliezer finally winning, only to be thrown out less than a year later by Mitzna who himself is involved in a funding scandal from the 1999 elections where he is alleged to have transferred funds from his Haifa mayoral campaign to Ehud Barak’s coffers. 

And one should not forget the Yossi Ginnosar scandal where a leading Laborite and high ranking former General Security Services operative is suspected of peddling his influence to force Israel into making major security and territorial concessions to the Palestinians at Camp David 2000.  Never mind that he had a major conflict of interest since he ran the Palestinian Authority bank account, made millions in cahoots with Yasir Arafat and was banned from being in the Israeli delegation by the government legal advisor Elyakim Rubenstein.  Barak saw to it that Ginnosar be placed in the American delegation.

Sharon and his sons Omri and Gilad are being investigated for suspected funding irregularities in Arik’s 1999 primaries run against Benyamin Netanyahu inside the Likud and his national campaign in 2001.  Now questions have arisen over a $1.5 million loan (at 3% interest) made by a South African friend, Cyril Kern.

Both are losing support to the centrist Shinui (possibly 17 seats) and the Likud voters are turning to the smaller right wing and religious factions.  It is almost as if Labor and Likud want to ensure chaos. 

It is hard to see where they benefit, but for sure the populace is the big loser.