Blue and White official hired private spies to trail party’s Yankelevich: report

Diaspora affairs minister says she was followed by investigators in mid-2019, move was ordered without party leader Gantz’s knowledge, according to report

Blue and White MK Omer Yankelevich attends a Knesset committee meeting on August 5, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Blue and White MK Omer Yankelevich attends a Knesset committee meeting on August 5, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A senior member of Blue and White hired private detectives last year to follow MK Omer Yankelevich, also a member of the party, without the knowledge of party leader Benny Gantz, according to a Friday report.

Yankelevich said she noticed she was being followed after returning to Israel from a trip to New York in July 2019, Channel 12 reported. She was an MK at the time and is now the minister of Diaspora affairs.

The report did not cite its sources or speculate on the motives for tailing Yankelevich. It came a day after a report by the same outlet dropped hints about alleged ties between the minister and Gantz.

Gantz’s Israel Resilience party, which merged with the Yesh Atid and Telem parties to form Blue and White in April 2019, denied any involvement in the incident, the report said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz seen during a visit in northern Israel, on October 27, 2020. (David Cohen/FLASH90)

“No official from Israel Resilience has ever hired people to follow anyone,” the party said.

The Yesh Atid and Telem parties split from Blue and White after Gantz, who serves as defense minister, decided to enter a unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year. There was no comment from either of the other factions.

Blue and White shed most of its public support following the agreement with Netanyahu’s Likud, and the resulting unity government collapsed earlier this week, sending Israel to its fourth round of elections in under two years.

Yankelevich’s claim that she was followed was first revealed by Channel 12’s “Uvda” investigatory program on Thursday. The report focused on Gantz as well as a scheme by a partner of Netanyahu’s lawyer to smear judges in the premier’s trial on corruption charges.

The Friday report noted that Yankelevich also angered other Blue and White lawmakers last month over her support for legalizing West Bank settlement outposts.

During a Blue and White party meeting, MK Asaf Zamir attacked Yankelevich, saying she was causing “political damage” to the party at a time when the country seemed likely to be heading to early elections.

Blue and White MK Asaf Zamir at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, May 21, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Zamir resigned from his position as tourism minister in October, citing the passage of controversial legislation to restrict protests during a coronavirus lockdown and what he said was Netanyahu’s focus on his legal woes.

He was one of several lawmakers from Blue and White and Netanyahu’s Likud party who torpedoed a bill this week that would have deferred a deadline for passing a state budget and averted elections, at least temporarily.

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