Amir Peretz, left, and Shelly Yacimovich
Amir Peretz, left, and Shelly Yacimovich. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Former Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz was involved in buying votes during the party's primary, Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich said Tuesday.

Referring to a report in Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth alleging vote buying during the Labor Party primaries, Yacimovich said charged that Peretz, who has since defected to Tzipi Livni's centrist party Hatnuah, was involved. 

"I know that, very unfortunately, this happened in the Labor Party," she told Army Radio. "I know that the former senior minister [alluded to in a Yedioth Ahronoth report on the vote-buying scheme] is Amir Peretz." She said the party "harshly condemns" vote buying.

Peretz, a Knesset member for Tzipi Livni's Hatnuah party who served as defense minister from 2006 to 2007, has denied involvement in the reported scheme.

"All the details described in the [Yedioth] report are fabricated from whole cloth and have no connection to reality," said a spokesman for Peretz.

Sources in Peretz's office said he found out about the issue only when a Yedioth reporter called him Monday night. They said they knew nothing about the investigation and called Yacimovich's comments "irresponsible."

The newspaper report stated that members in an unnamed party were involved in the vote-buying scheme and that evidence of the scandal was handed over Monday to police, who have begun investigating the matter.

It said the person who leaked the details about a Knesset member who used to be a cabinet minister had held a high-ranking position in the primary election campaign of the party implicated in the vote-buying scheme. That source said he took part in meetings during which payment was given to "vote contractors" responsible for soliciting votes for a particular candidate or group of candidates, according to the article.

"I was next to him at various times when he handed over money in exchange for support for his political deal," the source was quoted as saying about a candidate who went unnamed in the report. "We met with vote contractors in cafes and restaurants, and after each meeting he sent me to bring the checkbook from the car. In many instances I witnessed payment in exchange for support at the polls."

The source passed a polygraph test before Yedioth published the story. The test found him to be telling the truth when he answered affirmatively to questions about whether he was present when the candidate paid vote contractors by check and whether the candidate in question was present and aware of the payment.

Another former minister was also implicated in the report, with the source saying he saw the candidate give a check to another former minister in exchange for support in the primary. That statement, too, was corroborated in the polygraph test.