Daily Israel Report

Sharon Implicated in Another Campaign Funding Scandal

Just before departing New York Sunday night, PM Sharon allegedly managed to violate campaign funding laws by taking part in a dinner at which participants donated well over the permitted amount.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 9/23/2005, 12:01 PM / Last Update: 9/20/2005, 10:42 AM

A report by Israel's Channel Ten television reporter Raviv Drucker last night provided a detailed report on the Sunday night affair. He related how the organizer and hostess - NIna Rosenwald - sent letters to selected invitees asking for $10,000 per person or couple, and how the 5th Avenue location was closed off for over an hour for what the police described as a "top secret" reason. Only the 15 invited couples were permitted to enter Rosenwald's apartment, after having paid the minimum amount in advance.

Rosenwald is a member of the CFR (Council of Foreign Relations), but is also Chairman of the Board of MEMRI (Middle East Media and Research Institute), a member of CAMERA (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting), AIPAC (American-Israel Public Affairs Committee) and many other prestigious bodies.

The letter, as summarized by Drucker, states, "The problem: As you know, Prime Minister [sic] Binyamin Netanyahu is running against Sharon, and the one who wins will most likely be Israel's next Prime Minister. Unfortunately, Sharon does not enjoy the same financial support that Netanyahu has amassed over the past decades. We therefore ask you to contribute $10,000 each for a non-profit organization working all over Israel that is especially effective in bringing people to the polls. Please help; the future of Israel is truly in danger... The Prime Minister said that he is very interested in hearing your thoughts."

Though New York police did not allow Channel Ten's reporters to get near the scene, and even detained its photographer for a short while, the station identified the arrival of Sharon's convoy and was able to obtain footage of the Prime Minister entering the building through a back entrance.

Among the participants at the dinner were World Trade Center insurance beneficiary Larry Silverstein and Bonds President and former Health Minister Yehoshua Matza. A reporter asked Silverstein on his way out if Sharon had thanked him for his donation. Silverstein replied, "No. But it's not necessary; we're here to support the man."

Israel's campaign funding laws allow candidates to receive donations of only $7,800 per person or couple - significantly less than the amount requested. The Prime Minister's Bureau responded that Sharon and his staffers had no idea that money was raised for the dinner.

MK Tzvi Hendel, who has been greatly outspoken on the corruption of the Sharon family, said in response, "I am not at all surprised. Nothing has changed: Sharon remains the same, and so does the corruption in his family. I call upon the Attorney General to wake up and to have Sharon tried for his criminal acts, before we turn into a third-world country once and for all."

In fact, later in the day, the Movement for Quality in Government filed a police complaint against the Prime Minister, and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz announced that he will investigate it.

Alon Pinkas, who recently completed a term as Israeli Consul in New York, said this morning that while it's theoretically possible that Sharon did not know of the fund-raising, "Enough; we're sick of it already."

Sharon will spend the coming days before Sunday trying to head off a challenge to advance the Likud primaries. MKs Netanyahu and Uzi Landau wish to move up the primaries date from next April to this coming November, so that they can sooner challenge Sharon for the party leadership. The scheduling vote will be held early next week in the Likud's 3,000-member Central Committee.

Landau and Netanyahu say that Sharon is planning to start a new party if he loses the leadership race. They cite ambiguous statements made by Sharon supporters in recent days in support of this position. The accusation has hurt Sharon in party polls, and he reportedly plans to try to walk a tight wire over the coming days: he will refute the charges that he plans to quit, while refraining from committing absolutely to remain in the Likud.