Geula Cohen, Hanegbi’s mother.
Geula Cohen, Hanegbi’s mother. Photo by Tal Cohen
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Only one Knesset member publicly criticized MK Tzachi Hanegbi following yesterday's ruling that his crime involved moral turpitude. All the others mourned the departure of a valued colleague.

The lone critic was MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union ). "He brought this disgrace on himself," Eldad said. "The court said what every last citizen knows deep down: A public figure who commits perjury disgraces himself and should no longer hold any public office."

But most MKs voiced only praise. Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni said Hanegbi's behavior throughout the trial epitomized "the proper norms of conduct for a public figure in legal proceedings" and hoped he would soon return to politics and resume "contributing of his talents and abilities to the State of Israel."

Coalition chairman MK Zeev Elkin (Likud ) said he regretted the court's decision, which he said deprives the Knesset of "one of Israel's best politicians ... The Israeli public will lose by this decision, and I hope Tzachi Hanegbi returns to politics in the future and continues contributing to the State of Israel."

MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beiteinu ) similarly termed Hanegbi "a talented politician and a leading parliamentarian ... who did a great deal for the state and its security."

MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima ) even said that Hanegbi's departure would undermine the country's "strength and stamina in the face of its enormous security challenges."

Senior Israel Defense Force officers also voiced disappointment at the verdict, which will remove Hanegbi from his post as chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee after almost five years on the job.

"We could work very well with Hanegbi," a senior General Staff officer said. "We knew we could always trust him not to leak things, and to push things of importance to the army through the Knesset ... He never tried to make political capital out of his work on the committee."

It was partly due to the defense establishment's great respect for Hanegbi that he remained in this post, which usually goes to a coalition MK, even after the 2009 election sent his party into opposition. He is also unusual in maintaining good relations with both Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, despite the frequent spats between the two.

Nevertheless, some people in both the defense establishment and the Knesset criticized Hanegbi's sweeping support of the army following his committee's damning report on its conduct of the Second Lebanon War of 2006.

"He castrated the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that he headed and turned it into a committee that never criticizes anyone," said Eldad, who even accused Hanegbi of having done this deliberately so that senior politicians and defense officials would later serve as character witnesses for him in court - as indeed they did. Other MKs made similar statements - but unlike Eldad, they were not willing to go on record.

Hanegbi's mother, former MK Geula Cohen, said she was certain her son would remain in politics even if he had to leave the Knesset.

"I think everyone in this country should be sorry" about the verdict, she said. "We don't have so many great brains that we can afford to give one up."