Campaign invoices said to be ‘smoking gun’ in Herzog graft probe

Channel 10 says investigation into opposition leader centers around donations during his successful 2013 bid to become Labor chief

Zionist Union party chairman MK Isaac Herzog leads a faction meeting in the Knesset, January 4, 2016 (FLASH90)
Zionist Union party chairman MK Isaac Herzog leads a faction meeting in the Knesset, January 4, 2016 (FLASH90)

There is an apparent direct link between opposition leader Isaac Herzog and alleged violations of campaign funding laws during the 2013 Labor primary race that led to him taking over as party leader from Shelly Yachimovich, Channel 10 news said Wednesday.

Herzog, who heads the Zionist Union list that is an amalgamation of the Labor and Hatnuah parties, was named earlier in the day as the previously unidentified second senior Israeli lawmaker under investigation for graft. The announcement came a day after Interior Minister Aryeh Deri revealed he was again the center of a major corruption probe.

The suspicion against Herzog hinges on direct payments made by donors to members of his leadership campaign, Channel 10 said. The report also said that police have acquired invoices that show Herzog knew of the illicit transactions.

Earlier Wednesday, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit officially approved launching a preliminary investigation into Deri and the as-then unnamed Herzog.

Herzog was quick to respond as news broke of the probe against him, welcoming the investigation, but dismissing the accusations as the product of “delusional political muckraking” promoted by the rival Likud party and “frustrated activists” before last year’s Knesset elections.

“I’m sure the examination [of the allegations] will refute these delusional claims once and for all,” he said in a statement, promising to “cooperate fully” with any party so that “the issue is clarified as soon as possible.”

This isn’t the first time the Zionist Union chairman has faced suspicions relating to campaign funding.

He once memorably exercised his right to remain silent when he was investigated in 1999 as cabinet secretary, in connection with alleged campaign funding irregularities on the part of then-prime minister Ehud Barak.

Deri returned from the political wilderness in 2011, almost a decade after serving 22 months for accepting bribes during his previous stint as interior minister. He reclaimed the leadership of his Shas party shortly before last year’s Knesset elections, replacing Eli Yishai.

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