Important Supporters Weren't Enough to Save Hanegbi

The members of the judiciary panel in Tzachi Hanegbi's case were divided on nearly everything, including their views on the letters of support for the former minister that the court received ahead of the sentencing phase.

The head of the panel, Judge Yoel Tsur, wrote in his minority opinion yesterday that the letters were appropriate, while his colleagues Aryeh Romanoff and Oded Shaham ruled that most of the letters the court received could not be considered when determining whether to find Hanegbi guilty of moral turpitude.

Ahead of the sentencing phase, Hanegbi's attorney Jacob Weinroth gave the court a pile of letters his client had received from various public figures. Among those who had contacted Hanegbi to express their support were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Mossad director Meir Dagan, past and present Knesset speakers, military reserve officers Giora Eiland and Amos Yaron, and even literary figures like Yoram Kaniuk, Eli Amir and Erez Biton.

"I'm sorry for him. I still think I was right to write the letter. I think that in Israel, since the founding of the state, friends have brought in friends," Kaniuk said about charges of cronyism relating to Hanegbi's term as environment minister.

"It's gone on for years, but only Hanegbi was caught. Why start with him? I didn't know him before the letter - he just called me after I wrote the letter, on my own volition, and thanked me," he said.

Former police commissioner Shlomo Aharonishki, who also wrote Hanegbi a letter of support, declined to elaborate yesterday, noting simply, "Everything I had to say I've said."

Eiland said: "I had something to say, and if that didn't help, I'm sorry about that. I don't regret writing the letter. I wrote that Hanegbi is one of the more professional political figures we have, and that it's not surprising that he has the backing of the major parties. It's a shame that the circumstances are such that he can't continue his work."

Former Health Ministry director general Gabi Barabash said: "I don't regret my letter. I described what I experienced as ministry director general, and I have no reason to regret it. I'm only sorry for him."