Netanyahu at the heart of job-for-favours row
Monday 27 January 1997
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.
- 1 Barbarians vs Samoa interrupted by sprinklers as fans criticise lack of Wi-Fi and poor seating at West Ham's Olympic Stadium
- 2 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 3 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
- 4 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
- 5 David De Gea to Real Madrid: Real finally get their man with £29m bid for Manchester United goalkeeper
Caitlyn Jenner car crash: Driver who died in collision sued by surviving passengers for $18.5m
Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Turkey duped the US, and Isis reaps rewards
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...
£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...
£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...