Netanyahu at the heart of job-for-favours row

Israeli police yesterday started an investigation into corruption and deal-making in the appointment of the attorney-general, which could bring down the government.

At the heart of the scandal is an accusation by the Channel One television station that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, nominated Roni Bar- On, an obscure party loyalist, as attorney-general to allow a political ally of the government to escape corruption charges.

Mr Bar-On's appointment was greeted with astonishment and derision by the legal profession and senior judges, who forced him to resign after 12 hours. It was reported that two-thirds of the cabinet had never heard of Mr Bar-On, but it was the one third who knew him who voted against him.

Last week state-owned Israeli television said his appointment was made after he promised to arrange a plea bargain for Aryeh Deri, leader of Shas, a party with 10 members in the Knesset, who is on trial for corruption. In return Mr Deri promised to support the Hebron agreement, leading the scandal to be called the "Bar-On for Hebron" affair.

Mr Netanyahu and his government denied any such deal. The television reporter has yet to explain the source for her claims, but may be forced to do so by the police investigation. In general terms there is little doubt the government wanted to get rid of the previous attorney-general and replace him by somebody more malleable, but it would be surprising if they made a specific agreement with Mr Bar-On.

In its seven months in office the government has proved accident-prone and Mr Netanyahu has made several bizarre appointments. His first choice as justice minister had to withdraw, accused of making false statements to the Supreme Court. His office director was alleged to have a long record of making harassing calls to women. Other right-wing leaders are in trouble, such as Ehud Olmert, Mayor of Jerusalem, who is on trial for fraud.

Mr Netanyahu has accused Channel One of extreme bias against him.

Rafik Halabi, editor of its nightly news, said he was confident. "We will take this all the way," he said. "I'm not concerned, I'm not scared and I'm not worried. We will protect our sources, but will act within the confines of the law."

Senior members of the government appear to lack confidence in what Mr Netanyahu's kitchen cabinet - often compared to that around President Richard Nixon - might have got up to. Natan Sharansky, the Trade and Industry Minister, said yesterday: "If there was any kind of bargain, I recommend to everyone involved to admit it and resign, because this is an unprecedented crime." Avigdor Kahalani, Internal Security Minister, said: "If the affair is in fact as it appears, there is no doubt that this government has no future."

Mr Netanyahu himself called for a police investigation. But he has moved in the past few days from total denial to qualified denial, saying that if there was any deal, he did not know about it. It turns out that his own choice for the position of attorney-general - an important job in Israel, since whoever holds it acts like a special prosecutor in the US - was Dan Avi-Yitzhak, Mr Deri's lawyer, who turned down the job.

There is no doubt that Mr Netanyahu wanted an attorney-general he could control, but his political future may depend on whether he or anybody in his government ever spelt out what they expected Mr Bar-On to do for them.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory