Current and former Labor Party MKs, including ex-government ministers, are suspected of buying votes during the party’s primary elections in 2012. Party leader Shelly Yachimovich on Tuesday accused her predecessor Amir Peretz of involvement in the offense. He denied the allegations.
Police launched an investigation on Monday and began to collect evidence on the corruption charges, a week after other accusations of electoral malfeasance surfaced against members of the Likud and Jewish Home parties.
“We will not be a pawn in the hands of any political body, we will investigate and do our work to uncover the truth.” Israel Police Chief Yohanan Danino said. “Yesterday, we received information regarding allegations of election bribery. In consultation with the Attorney General, we decided to launch an investigation.”
Israel Radio on Tuesday identified some of the Labor politicians implicated in the investigation as MK Erel Margalit, former minister Salah Tarif, and former MK Raleb Majadele. Margalit, Tarif, and Madadele denied the accusations.
A Labor candidate’s senior campaign staffer told Yedioth Ahronoth that “former ministers and serving members of Knesset — including politicians who formerly served in a governmental role as a senior minister” allegedly paid money for votes in the party’s primaries. He told police that he’d attended several meetings where funds were illegally transferred from his employer to potential voters. The staff member, identified by police as “P,” passed a police polygraph test.
In an interview with Army Radio Tuesday morning, Yachimovich — who won last year’s primary, taking the reins from Peretz — accused him of being the former senior minister charged with corruption.
“I know that the former senior minister [mentioned by police] is Amir Peretz,” Yachimovich said.
Following the publication of the alleged misconduct within Labor’s ranks, Yachimovich and party secretary MK Yehiel Bar issued a joint statement on the matter.
“We strongly condemn this phenomenon and are simply disgusted by this,” the statement read. “Happily, those who allegedly committed the acts are no longer members of the Labor Party.”
“In the past year and a half, the Labor Party has undertaken a series of measures to ensure the integrity of elections,” the party said.
According to Yedioth Ahronoth, some of the MKs mentioned in police reports still serve in the Labor Party.
Peretz, a former defense minister who left Labor in December 2012 to join Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party, vehemently denied the allegations, saying Yachimovich made an “irresponsible statement.”
He added that “one of her key characteristic features is to participate in plots against people.”
Responding to allegations that “vote contractors” purchased votes for him, notably in Bedouin communities, Peretz said he knew of no such behavior, that he had never been involved in such acts, and that all his political campaigns had been carried out in coordination with the relevant legal authorities and with respect for the law.
According to a source close to Peretz, the former minister “learned last night from a Yedioth Ahronoth reporter about the case. Every detail described in the article did not happen and has no bearing on reality. We have no idea of an investigation or trial in progress.”
The source added that “we would suggest Yachimovich wait a little longer to gloat. Peretz is known for his integrity and for his attention to every detail. Yachimovich, with the wickedness that characterizes her, cannot change that.”