Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Dror Artzi)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, right. Photo by Dror Artzi
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Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein had decided to close an investigation of Nili Priel, the wife of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, for lack of evidence concerning Priel's employing an illegal foreign worker.

Priel was suspected hiring a Filipina woman who was here illegally at the couple's Tel Aviv home. In the course of the investigation, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor and the Shin Bet security service failed to locate the woman, who was referred to as Virginia and was thought to be employed as a cleaner.

The attorney general ultimately decided there was not enough evidence based on Priel's own statements to file an indictment. Barak's office declined yesterday to comment on the matter.

Priel acknowledged employing the woman, whom she said she knew as Virginia, but said she had no information about how she could be located or contacted.

In December of last year it was reported that Priel had hired a foreign worker who did not have permission to work in Israel. The woman was employed for several months doing housekeeping chores twice a week. She also worked at large social events Barak and Priel held. It is thought the woman had worked in Israel as a caregiver, and that her work permit expired, at which point she began cleaning homes.

A senior attorney in Weinstein's office, Raz Nizri, said there was no evidence that the defense minister was involved in employing the foreign worker, and that under the circumstances it was decided not to question Barak. The Shin Bet was also unable to shed light on the foreign worker's whereabouts.

Nizri added that the decision to close the case was made in consultation with the attorney general and State Prosecutor Moshe Lador. The meeting was also attended by officials in the Interior Ministry and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry. The legal reason given for closing the investigation without pressing charges is that without evidence that could shed light on the migrant's legal status in Israel, the authorities could not pursue criminal charges against anyone who employs that person.

Barak fires back at Olmert

Meanwhile, the defense minister issued his first response to the criticism leveled at him by former prime minister Ehud Olmert. "All in all, I pity him," Barak said in an interview with Channel 2 last night. "History will judge him for his actions."

In his recently released autobiography, Olmert hinted that Barak sought to thwart the Israel Air Force operation that destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor in September 2007. Olmert also accused Barak of undermining his authority by secretly conducting cease-fire negotiations with foreign ministers during Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip, which began in late December 2008.

"The accusations by the former chairman of Kadima are totally baseless," Barak said. "The day will come when the truth will emerge."

The defense minister said Olmert was "a man in distress," adding: "It's impossible not to pity him for the state he's in at the moment."

"I don't expect a warm embrace" from Olmert, Barak said. After allegations of corruption involving Olmert came to light, the defense minister threatened to pull the Labor party out of Olmert's government unless the then-premier resigned.