The Plot Thickens: Hirschson Linked to Olmert Investigation

Police are investigating links between former Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in corruption probes of the pair.

Hana Levi Julian ,

Former Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson
Former Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson
Israel News Photo: (archive)

Former Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson has been added to the growing list of those who may be involved in campaign finance irregularities and other forms of corruption in the widening investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

As part of the criminal investigation of Hirschson, Israel Police revealed Tuesday they are examining possible links between him and the Prime Minister's former bureau chief, Shula Zaken. 

The police are currently investigating allegations that NIS 100,000 was passed between Zaken and Hirschson to fund the former Finance Minister's election war chest in March 2004. At that time, there were no general or internal party primary elections, and the sum wasn't reported to the relevant authorities. Nor was it recorded in party financial ledgers, according to Israel Police sources.

Hirschson was forced to resign his post in July 2007 after being indicted on charges of embezzling millions of shekels from a non-governmental organization (NGO) during his tenure as head of the Histadrut National Labor Union.

There are a number of investigations being carried out against the prime minister as well. The most serious of the probes, which has broadened to include American businessman Morris (Moshe) Talansky, a long-time major Olmert supporter, includes deepening questions about Zaken's involvement in the handling of cash payments sent from various donors.

The Olmert-Talansky investigation also cast a shadow over attorney Uri Messer. The former Olmert associate has testified that he handled the transfer of large sums of cash between Talansky and Olmert. Prosecutors have been considering offering Messer the status of state's witness in the case.

Canadian PM Cancels Visit Due to Probes
The ongoing investigations have prompted Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to cancel his planned visit to the Middle East next week.

Former Canadian ambassador to Israel, Norman Spector, explained to The Canadian Press, "There is considerable instability there [in Israel - ed.] now." Although the trip had not been formally announced, the Canadian prime minister had planned to visit Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.

Public Confidence in the Prime Minister at All-Time Low
The Israel Democracy Institute presented its annual report on the state of Israel's democracy to President Shimon Peres on Tuesday. According to the report, more than 90 percent of the Israeli public believes Israel "is touched by corruption, and that corruption is a necessary tool for public advancement."

Public trust of the prime minister is at an all-time low; a bare 17 percent of the public expressed confidence in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.