Cronyism, influence-peddling, the buying and selling of votes and mobsters in high places: The recent scandals swirling around the Likud Party sound like the stuff of a dozen bad (but must-see) movies. A guide to the episodes and characters:
A network of behind-the-scenes deal-making and chicanery was revealed when an unknown waitress, Inbal Gavrieli, 27, a party member of only six weeks, placed 29th on Likud’s Knesset list, ahead of Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, among others. Her family has extensive gambling interests and connections with underworld figures. Likud Central Committee figures were forced to resign as a result of the scandal.
Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Naomi Blumenthal was fired by Sharon when she refused to answer police questions about her role in illicitly providing Central Committee members with luxury hotel rooms. Omri Sharon, the prime minister’s son and closest advisor, similarly refused to respond to police questioning but retains his position.
The Greek Tycoons
Media reports and opposition lawmakers charge that Sharon, while serving as foreign minister in the Netanyahu government, inappropriately advanced Tel Aviv businessman David Appel’s commercial interest in acquiring a Greek island — and that Sharon’s younger son, Gilad, was hired to work on the project for a $640,000 salary, with promises of some $3 million more in profits. In 2001, Israel police recommended that Olmert be indicted on the charge of having accepted bribes from Appel, an inveterate wheeler-dealer, whom the police also recommended be put on trial.
Out of South Africa
Authorities are investigating a $1.5 million loan to Sharon or his sons granted by South African businessman Cyril Kern. It’s unclear whether the loan was destined to repay a campaign contribution made by the American firm Annex Research or whether the money was used to offset debts accrued by the Sharon family farm. Israeli law prohibits foreign campaign contributions.
Lior Horev, an advisor to Sharon, is claiming that he has been subjected to surveillance and illegal wiretaps, and points to a videotaped interview with a former police investigator who reportedly describes how the police wiretapped the phones of senior politicians, among them Sharon, Netanyahu and Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman as part of yet another probe.