Daily Israel Report

Kadima Party Mayor Headed for Bribery Indictment

Chaim Barbivai, the Mayor of Kiryat Shmonah who was one of the first to join Ariel Sharon's Kadima party, is to be indicted on charges of bribery. Kadima features others under police investigation.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 12/13/2005, 12:48 PM / Last Update: 12/13/2005, 10:38 AM

State Prosecutor Eran Shendar has approved the decision to indict Barbivai, but the indictment will be served only after Barbivai has had a special hearing.

The charges against the mayor are having signed a false affidavit and municipal election law violations. He stands accused of demanding contributions from businessmen and contractors who required his services. Barbivai denies the charges, saying that he was found to be telling the truth in a lie-detector that he initiated.

Kadima, formed just last month by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, features several leading figures who are under criminal investigation or who have been convicted. Sharon himself is under investigation in what is known as the Cyril Kern case, and his son, MK Omri Sharon, was convicted last month of violating campaign laws and perjury. He is expected to face a jail sentence, and just yesterday asked the court to delay sentencing until after the national election "in order not to harm my father's election campaign."

The police have also recommended that new Kadima member Minister Tzachi HaNegbi be indicted for allegedly illegal political appointments he made while serving as Environment Minister.

Two other Kadima MKs, Eli Aflalo and Ruchama Avraham, were reprimanded by the Knesset Ethics Committee - and are being investigated by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss - for what is known as the Agrexco scandal. The two traveled abroad last year at the expense of Agrexco, a vegetable and fruit exporting company. Agrexco's activities are within the scope of the Knesset Finance Committee on which they serve.

After the news broke, the two MKs returned the cost of the flight, 7,300 shekels, and Aflalo also returned another 5,500 shekels for the cost of his New York hotel stay.

When HaNegbi joined Kadima last week, Shinui MK Roni Brizon said that at this rate, "the party faction can hold its meetings in the Maasiyahu Prison." His party colleague Reshef Chen said, "It will be interesting to see which of the corrupt Kadima politicians will take upon himself the job of explaining the party's position on 'clean government.'"

Commentator Mordechai Gilat, writing for Ynet two weeks ago, asserted that in weighing which of the two parties, Likud or Kadima, was more corrupt, "the Kadima Party wins, hands down: Deceiving the attorney general, perjury, the millions of dollars the Sharon family has taken from private businessmen trying to advance their interests, the Cyril Kern case and silencing of key witnesses are more serious than that the goings-on in Likud." Gilat wrote this before HaNegbi jumped to Kadima and before today's news about Barbivai.

More on Defense Minister Mofaz's Switch to Kadima

Excerpts from Sha'ul Mofaz's letter to Likud members, dated December 5 - exactly a week before he announced his decision to leave the Likud and his race for party leader, and switch over to Ariel Sharon's Kadima party:

"The Likud is home for all of us - a beautiful house, one with an exemplary national and social path and democratic institutions... Ariel Sharon is a man of many merits, but he made a grave mistake when he joined up with Shimon Peres, Chaim Ramon and Dalia Itzik - all genuine left-wingers. As opposed to them, the Likud with me at its helm will present our national perception...

"I am totally committed to fortifying and thickening the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria, the Jordan Valley and the Golan...

"As you know, I have chosen to remain in the Likud, despite the fact that [Sharon or Kadima] promised me the Defense Ministry if I would leave. I chose not to do this, because one does not leave his home, [emphasis in the original], and I intend to remain in the Likud in all situations, and fight for its path! ..."