Watchdog: Jewish Home party’s NIS 28m deficit ‘threatens its existence’

Watchdog: Jewish Home party’s NIS 28m deficit ‘threatens its existence’

State comptroller fines coalition party NIS 180,000 for failing to pay back bank loans, other outstanding debts

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Jewish Home celebrates the end of its primaries on January 15, 2015. (Ben Kelmer/Flash90)
Jewish Home celebrates the end of its primaries on January 15, 2015. (Ben Kelmer/Flash90)

As of late 2016, the coalition Jewish Home party had a NIS 28 million ($8.1 million) deficit, a sum that could “threaten its continued existence,” according to a state comptroller report released on Monday.

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira also fined the right-wing party NIS 180,000 ($52,000) for a series of financial missteps laid out in the report, from failing to pay back a bank loan, to over NIS 560,000 ($160,000) in other unsettled debts dating back over a decade.

The ombudsman also accused the party of submitting incomplete reports on its spending.

“The Jewish Home did not handle its accounts in accordance with the state comptroller’s instructions,” Shapira chided in his report.

The Jewish Home party’s budget deficit far exceeded that of any other political party. It was followed by the governing Likud with a NIS 6 million deficit ($1.75 million), and Yisrael Beytenu at NIS 3.5 million ($1 million).

In  2014, Yisrael Beytenu’s budget deficit stood at NIS 21 million, prompting similar warnings from Shapira that it could also be forced to cease operations.

The Jewish Home party’s accountant, in documents attached to the report, sounded the alarm about the party’s financial future, warning it could go under unless reforms were instituted.

In a statement, Jewish Home said it would study the report “in depth” and implement its findings. The party, however, added that it had “been in the process of stabilizing” its finances over the past several years “over debts accrued many years prior to 2013.”

“The State Comptroller’s Office also understands that [the party] has come a long way and we continue to work vigorously on various issues,” the party said.

It was not the first time the state ombudsman, which monitors Israel’s political funding activities, has levied hefty fines on the Jewish Home party.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked seen after casting her vote during the Jewish Home party’s preliminary elections, in Jerusalem, on April 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In October 2016, Shapira fined the Jewish Home and Likud some NIS 850,000 ($222,000) apiece, accusing their leaders of breaking campaign financing rules when candidates appeared at a political rally ahead of the 2015 election, in a period during which they are not allowed to canvas for votes.

The Jewish Home party was also hit with a NIS 1 million ($290,000) penalty at the time for other irregularities in handling its accounts.

In 2014, the Jewish Home was levied with a NIS 380,000 ($108,000) penalty after the financial summary it filed was deemed incomplete.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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