Faina Kirshenbaum
Faina KirshenbaumGili Yaari/Flash 90

A large scale corruption investigation involving the Ministry of Interior is being dubbed "the Yisrael Beytenu investigation" by local media, because of the central role played in it by deputy minister Faina Kirshenbaum and other party officials.

Likewise, an average of polls calculated by KnessetJeremy.com indicates Yisrael Beytenu dropping by 1.3 seats over the last week, presumably due to the negative publicity around the corruption investigation.

However, the probe may actually wind up assisting the party in the elections, according to Prof. Vladimir Ze'ev Hanin, a political science expert at Ariel and Bar Ilan universities.

Hanin told Arutz Sheva that pundits in the Russian sector say that in Israel, there are two sure signs that it's election time: there's a war in Gaza and a police investigation is launched into Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu party.

Support for the party is only growing at the moment among Russian speaking voters, with the high profile police investigation causing them to psychologically “circle the wagons,” he estimated. Voters from other sectors, too, prefer to wait and see what comes of the investigations before deciding to abandon Yisrael Beytenu.

Police top brass deny that there is any connection between the timing in which the investigation was made public and the upcoming elections. 

If there is any erosion of support for the party it is only at the margins, he claimed, and not a meaningful phenomenon. The Russian-speakers see the investigation as an attempt “to change the rules of the game in the middle of the game,” and could eventually even cause some voters to boycott the elections.

Hanin said that while Russian immigrants have been in Israel long enough that 90% of them see themselves as Israelis, when voting they tend to look for a party that has, at the least, a “strong Russian branch.”

These voters give Yisrael Beytenu at least two thirds of its Knesset strength, Hanin estimated. The rest comes from Israelis who are not Russian immigrants.

Hanin calls Liberman's politics "pragmatic right wing," in the sense that he does not favor unilateral concessions. His national plan, seen by many as being a sharp shift to the left, urges dividing Israel and swapping large swathes of currently sovereign territory, including the "Triangle" region of central Israel, in exchange for territory in Judea and Samaria. 

Recently, Liberman reportedly called for the expulsion of Jewish communities to placate the European Union (EU) as part of a regional peace treaty.