Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

26 Shevat 5760 - February 2, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Sponsored by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Produced and housed by

Rabbi Gafni: "Barak Should Apologize to the Chareidim"; Israeli Scene Weighed Down by Barak's Troubles

by Eliezer Rauchberger, M. Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff

"Prime Minster Ehud Barak . . . should mount the Knesset platform as quickly as possible and apologize to the chareidi sector," Rabbi Moshe Gafni said during the debate on the Likud's no confidence motion in the government because of the scandal about the illegal nonprofit organizations (NPOs) that were used by the One Israel party in its campaign for the Knesset and to elect Barak prime minister.

A central feature of the One Israel campaign that was headed by Barak, who approved its main themes and spoke about them many times, was a vigorous and insulting campaign against yeshiva students, Torah institutions and the entire Torah educational network, as if they were phony organizations. Large posters were hung around the country proclaiming that Barak would allocate "Money for Employment, and not to Fictitious NPOs." Now it turns out that this very battle against the chareidi sector was conducted by fictitious NPOs under the command of Barak and other figures who remain his close associates.

Regardless of the outcome of the criminal investigation of all those in the campaign, Rabbi Gafni insisted that Barak owes the chareidi community an apology.

Though the full political, diplomatic and social impact of the NPO scandal that has rocked the already shaky government of prime minister Ehud Barak will not be evident for quite some time, it has already had considerable effect.

Last weekend Barak canceled a scheduled trip to an economic conference in Davos to concentrate on damage control in Israel, incurring the wrath of the conference organizers who had already announced that he would participate in several events.

On Sunday he flew to Egypt for previously scheduled talks with president Mubarak. Though the official press releases said nothing of Barak's domestic troubles, all the reporters asked about was the NPO scandal. Reportedly, a significant part of the private talks between Barak and Mubarak also dealt with the issue.

The Likud submitted a no confidence motion that was debated on Monday. The proceedings were halted when news reached the Knesset of the tragic attack in Lebanon (see separate story). The remainder of the debate and the vote itself will be held next Monday.

The Likud has also said it is weighing a legal suit to have the results of the elections canceled in view of the widespread abuses.

In a scathing attack on Barak before the session was halted, Likud leader Ariel Sharon said that at stake is "the credibility of the prime minister and whether he knew about the activities of the nonprofit organizations."

Until the report, Sharon said, he thought Barak ran a one-man show and had faulted him for it. Now, Sharon said, "we suddenly have learned that this is not the way things are. On such an important issue, and one related to the foundations of the law and democratic regime . . . Barak didn't know, hear, sense or suspect that in the election campaign he headed things were being done that today are under criminal investigation."

The full extent of the criminal aspects are certainly not yet known. The comptroller noted that his investigation is not a criminal one, and he refrained from entering into that aspect of the abuses. Because of the hints of what is yet to come, the possibility is already rumored in Knesset corridors that the scandal spells the beginning of the end of the Barak government.

Barak's attempts to defend himself and his campaign have not been forceful or convincing. "As far as I understand, we acted within the law and according to it. If mistakes were made, they were done innocently," Barak told party members at a meeting on the issue.

Barak said he would act strenuously to amend party financing laws, which he claimed do not work well in the direct election system. He and Justice Minister Yossi Beilin will set up a legal committee to look into updating the law, Barak said. Barak stressed that he would cooperate with any investigation.

The Labor party is also seriously on the defensive. Fearing a bad report, it reportedly set aside NIS 6 million to pay fines. However the final assessment was almost NIS 14 million, and the comptroller insisted that he had been lenient. The party has no reserves to cover such a large payment. It asked its partners in One Israel, Gesher and Meimad, to pay a portion of the fine, but they refused. At first they announced that they will contest the fine in court, but they have not yet filed any papers.

The Movement for Quality Government said that cabinet secretary Yitzhak Herzog should not continue in his position in view of the serious charges against him. Likud leaders also called for his resignation, but last week Herzog said that he has no intention of resigning and that he has done nothing wrong.

Observers noted that the scandal makes it unlikely that Barak could win a referendum on any agreement with Syria that is clearly an uphill battle. Tal Zilberstein, accused with Herzog as one of the worst offenders against the various laws, was recently appointed by Barak to begin organizing the effort to win the vote on a Syrian agreement.

Top police commanders began setting up five separate teams to investigate the five Israeli political parties criticized by the state comptroller for violating campaign laws in the 1999 election. The investigations -- of One Israel, Likud, the Center Party, Israel Beiteinu and United Torah Judaism -- will be conducted by the national fraud division.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.