Opposition calls for recall of UN envoy after TV alleges corruption

TV report accuses Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon of systematic corruption, charges he denies

Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, November 6, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Labor party chairman Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, November 6, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The head of the opposition Labor party Avi Gabbay has called for Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon to be recalled and investigated after a television report Monday said he was guilty of widespread political corruption to further his personal career.

Danon vehemently denied the charges on Hadashot news. Nevertheless, Gabbay said it pointed to “another brick in the wall of corruption surrounding the Likud.”

Danny Danon, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, addresses the Security Council meeting on October 18, 2017. (UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently being investigated in two separate graft probes. “For this corruption and the loss of shame, the people will send them to the opposition,” Gabbay predicted.

The left-wing Meretz party said it would petition the attorney general to launch an investigation into Danon.

This was echoed by Yesh Atid lawmaker Karine Elharrar, who called for an immediate “criminal investigation” into the allegations against Danon, saying that, if true, they were an example of “pure political corruption.”

The television report said that Danon, a senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, took control of a department of the World Zionist Organization intended to promote Zionism, and appointed cronies and their relatives to highly salaried positions, paid from public funds, in exchange for their support in Likud primary elections.

Danon, a former Likud MK, won the chairmanship of the World Likud organization in 2006 and held the post until 2015, a position which, the TV report said, gave him tremendous influence on appointments and budgets for national institutions. World Likud is one of the World Unions under the aegis of the World Zionist Organization.

Six years ago, Danon appointed an associate of his, Yaakov Hagoel, to head a division of the WZO called Doing Zionism, a small section with 30 employees, the report said.

Head of the local department of the Zionist Organization, Yaakov Hagoel, during an event organized by the Zionist Council of Israel and the World Zionist Organization, at the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem, on Friday, February 7, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)

In 2011, the Jewish National Fund gave no money to Doing Zionism. By 2015 the JNF’s contribution to that division had risen to NIS 15,117,500 ($4.3 million) and the number of employees had risen to 190.

Hadashot news charged that using the cover of this division, Danon and Hagoel hired Likud workers to further Danon’s career. The official title of the group was the “Eshkolot Project” which was supposed to work to promote Zionism in Israel. Instead, the report claimed, it became a mechanism for paying thousands of shekels each month to Likud workers who would be loyal to Danon.

Based on interviews, computer files and emails, Hadashot claimed that Danon hand-picked employees to this project, who earned thousands of shekels a month for, in some cases, only a few hours of work.

Hadashot said the evidence it had gathered pointed to systematic corruption, not towards a party or group, but to further the career of a single politician.

In response to the report, Danon said that he was not given enough time to refute all the claims. He insisted that he had done nothing wrong and that the report was a targeted piece to defame him. He touted his achievements in promoting Zionism both while in Israel and now as UN ambassador.

The WZO said that all the claims were false and baseless. It said that as an organization it has received praise from across the political spectrum, and that its employees include members of Labor, Meretz, Jewish Home and other political parties.

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