Yesh Atid suspends Hadera mayor named as corruption suspect

Tzvika Gendelman and 3 other elected municipal officials questioned by police over bribery and tax fraud suspicions

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

Hadera Mayor Tzvika Gendelman (L) meeting with Rabbi Shalom Cohen, President of the Shas Torah Sages Council, February 12, 2017. (Yaakov Cohen/Flash90)
Hadera Mayor Tzvika Gendelman (L) meeting with Rabbi Shalom Cohen, President of the Shas Torah Sages Council, February 12, 2017. (Yaakov Cohen/Flash90)

The centrist Yesh Atid party suspended the mayor of the northern city of Hadera from its ranks Monday after he was named as the senior public official questioned earlier in the day on corruption suspicions.

Hadera Mayor Tzvika Gendelman and three other municipal officials were detained early Monday morning over suspected bribery, corruption and tax-related offenses. In the afternoon, Gendelman was remanded for a week in custody.

According to police, the suspects “illegally utilized their role in order to advance the interests of others.”

The suspects were interrogated by the police anti-fraud unit, Lahav 433, after a raid on their homes and offices.

Yesh Atid, which has taken a strident anti-corruption stance, repeatedly slamming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over a series of ongoing police investigations against him, said the suspicions against Gendelman meant he could no longer continue in the party.

“The rule in Yesh Atid is clear and explicit: A public official who is under criminal investigation will suspend himself from all his duties immediately and his membership in the party will be discontinued until the matter is clarified. We hope the suspicions will turn out to be baseless,” the party said in a statement.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid speaks at a faction meeting in the Knesset on May 21, 2018. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Asked by The Times of Israel if that rule would also apply to the head of the party in the theoretical event of an investigation being opened against him, chairman Yair Lapid said there would be no double standard when it comes to corruption.

“The rule would apply to me as it would to anyone else, of course,” he said.

“We are not like Likud,” he added in a dig at Netanyahu’s ruling party.

Corruption scandals have dogged numerous Israeli municipalities of late.

Last month, Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam confirmed he and several other city officials were under investigation for various corruption-related offenses. Lahav 433 investigators questioned Salam and the municipal workers over suspicions of theft, accepting an illegal gift in aggravated circumstances, fraud and breach of trust.

Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam appears at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, January 30, 2014 (Flash90)

Earlier in May, a number of senior Beit Shemesh municipal officials were arrested on suspicion of bribery and corruption, with investigators suspecting that they received sizable kickbacks from business people in return for advancing their interests by allowing them to purchase land for development.

In April, seven people were arrested when police and tax officials raided the Hevel Modiin Regional Council offices, including a senior elected official in the council. Seven others were taken to Lahav 433 headquarters for questioning as part of the same investigation. Two others were arrested in another corruption probe.

In March, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman was arrested along with five others on allegations of bribery, fraud, breach of trust, abuse of power and tax offenses. Officials said Turgeman, who serves as chairman of the capital’s Planning and Building Committee, was suspected of accepting money in exchange for illegally advancing various interests.

An ongoing, unrelated corruption investigation involving officials from the Rishon Lezion municipality and local developers has focused on MK David Bitan, a former deputy mayor in the city, who was forced to resign last December as coalition whip after it emerged that he was at the center of the probe.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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