A week after Yedioth Ahronoth revealed that Israel Police was investigating suspicions of corruption in Habayit Hayehudi 's party primaries, Ynet revealed that during the Labor Party's primaries, candidates also allegedly offered money in exchange for votes. Chairwoman Yachimovich said the former senior minister who was mentioned in previous reports is Amir Peretz.
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Peretz defected from Labor after the primary elections and is now a member of Hatnua, which is headed by Tzipi Livni .
"I know the former senior minister is Amir Peretz," she told Army Radio Tuesday morning.
Yedioth Ahronoth reported that police began investigating allegations of corruption in the Labor primaries and began collecting testimonies.
Yachimovich and Labor Secretary General Hilik Bar issued a statement saying, "We condemn the phenomenon described in the (Yedioth) article. We are pleased that those who allegedly committed the acts are no longer members of the Labor Party."
It should be noted that some of the officials who were allegedly involved in the affair have left the party, but others are still members.
Yachimovich and Bar added: "The results of the primaries in the various communities are locked in a vault to prevent pressure on voters from various elements. The Elections Committee also hired lawyers and private investigators who warned of any attempt to tilt the vote. In these polling stations voting was stopped immediately."
'Voting was stopped immediately.' Peretz and Yachimovich (Archive photo: Ofer Amram)
Peretz on Tuesday criticized Yachimovich's "irresponsible remarks," adding that the Labor leader tends to "participate in blood libels against people."
An associate said Peretz learned about the details (of the affair) during a conversation with a Yedioth Ahronoth reporter Monday night. "The details described in the article never occurred and have no connection to reality," Peretz's associate said.
"We do not know anything about any investigation being conducted. We suggest that Yachimovich wait a while before she gloats. Peretz is known for his integrity. Yachimovich will not be able to change this."
Peretz's brother-in-law Sami Shushan, who was also mentioned by Yachimovich, said Monday in response to the testimonies "It is all nonsense and lies. It is true that I gave (another former senior minister) a check for activity for the activists' work, because we ran a joint office, but the rest are rumors that are spread about all the parties. I don’t know any 'voter contractors' and I did not pay anyone."
New testimonies indicate that former ministers and current Knesset members – including a former senior minister, who Yachimovich claims is Peretz – were allegedly involved in activity that included payments to "voting contractors" in exchange for their support during the primaries.
'It was not a donation'
At the center of the affair is "P", who held a senior position in the headquarters of one of the candidates during the Labor primaries. The man said he attended numerous illegal meetings during which money was transferred to "voter contractors" in exchange for their support of a group of candidates. A polygraph test commissioned by Yedioth Ahronoth showed that "P", who gave a detailed account of the meetings, was telling the truth.
According to his testimony, one of the candidates hired him about a month before the primary elections. During this time the two travelled all across the country in an attempt to secure the candidate a realistic spot on Labor's Knesset roster. The two failed, and the candidate did not secure a realistic place on the party's list.
"P" claimed that instead of trying to capture the hearts of voters, the candidate he worked for tried to buy their votes. "I was by his side on several occasions when he transferred money in exchange for support of his political deal," he said in his testimony.
"P" mentioned the names of a host of MKs and Labor Party candidates who were allegedly part of the deal. "We met with 'voter contractors' at coffee shops and restaurants, and toward the end of each meeting he (candidate) would send me to get the checkbook from the car. In many cases I was a witness to payment in exchange for support at the polls," he claimed.
According to "P," Peretz took part in the candidate's meeting with 'voter contractors' at the Beit Kama Junction in the south during Operation Pillar of Defense . According to the testimony, the sides agreed that the 'contractors' would throw their support behind Peretz, the candidate "P" worked for and other candidates included in the deal.
In exchange for this support, the candidate gave the 'contractors' a check for hundreds of thousands of shekels to one of the 'contractors.'
"P" offered additional information allegedly linking Peretz to the candidate's activity.
"P" said that on the day of the primaries his candidate was summoned to an urgent meeting in the south. One of the 'contractors' in the Negev asked for more money so he could allay his associates' concerns regarding the work of police and private investigators hired by the party to prevent irregularities. "P" said his candidate took out the checkbook and paid the "contractor."
In another incident, according to "P," the candidate met with another former minister. Following the meeting, the candidate handed he minister a check after the latter had promised to support him during the primary elections race.
A third incident in which votes were bought allegedly took place at a mall at the entrance to Zichron Yaakov, where the candidate "P" worked for and another candidate met with a third former minister from Labor. The ex-minister promised the two he would support them on the primaries and received two separate checks from the candidates.
In other instances, "P" claimed, the candidate met with "voter contractors" alone in various locations and paid them to support him and the group of candidates that was part of the deal.
In his testimony, "P" exposed his candidate's ties to mayors and deputy municipal heads who helped him "bend the rules" or break the law. "He would boast of how he paid this mayor or that deputy mayor," he said. "There were instances in which I saw how he (candidate) controlled these municipalities and was able to cancel many parking tickets."
Investigators, who collected some of the testimonies on Monday, are trying to determine whether the candidate did in fact offer money in exchange for votes and whether MKs and former ministers were involved.
The candidate who hired "P" denied the allegations. "It's nonsense and lies. While it is true that I gave a check to (a former minister) for the joint activity held for party activists, because we worked out of the same headquarters. But the rest is rumors behind spread about all the parties. I do not know any 'voter contractors,' and I did not pay anyone.
One of the former ministers who was accused of receiving payment said in response, "I met will all the candidates, including those you mentioned. It's nonsense."
Another former minister also denied the allegations. "I never received a check from the candidate," he said. After the former minister was shown the state comptroller's report, which says that he did receive a donation from the candidate, the former minister said, "He did pay me, but that was for a conference I organized. This was reported to the state comptroller. It was not a donation."
Ynet, Yedioth Ahronoth reporters contributed to the report