New Yisrael Beiteinu MK Was Suspect in Party Corruption Probe

Newly minted MK Oded Forer was summoned for questioning on suspicion of breach of trust during the time he was director general of the Absorption Ministry.

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Yisrael Beiteinu's Oded Forer
Yisrael Beiteinu's Oded ForerCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

A Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset member sworn in Monday has been questioned under warning in the political corruption case known as the Yisrael Beiteinu affair. Haaretz has learned that shortly after the elections, during which the newly minted MK Oded Forer, who served as the party’s campaign director in the last election, was summoned for questioning on suspicion of breach of trust during the time he was director general of the Absorption Ministry.

Forer, 38, who was No. 8 on the party’s Knesset roster, replaces Sharon Gal, who in a surprise move announced his resignation last week. Gal, a former TV presenter and radio host, is known for his right-wing political views and was one of the main proponents of a bill that would allow the death penalty for terrorists convicted of murder.

Also sworn in Monday was Elazar Stern of Yesh Atid, replacing MK Shay Piron, who also resigned.

The suspicions against Forer came to light as the investigation of the Yisrael Beiteinu affair broadened and was made public in December of last year.

In that same month Forer announced his resignation as Absorption Ministry director general and his candidacy for a spot on the Yisrael Beiteinu ticket. In the 2013 election, Forer was No. 16 on Yisrael Beiteinu’s list and No. 43 on the joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu ticket.

Forer is the son of the former mayor of Rehovot, Shuki Forer. Although he and his family are veteran Likud members, the younger Forer joined Yisrael Beiteinu a few years ago and was appointed chairman of the party’s young leadership, a voluntary position. He has recently grown close to Yisrael Beiteinu chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman, who has called the new MK “both a talented person and a true patriot.”

The Yisrael Beiteinu affair involves suspicions that senior members of the party, particularly its director general, former Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirschenbaum, funneled huge sums from the budgets of government ministries to various NGOs and local authorities in exchange for the appointment of the party members’ close associates to positions in which the associates were unlikely to have been needed, or in exchange for hefty commissions to people close to these officials. Six state’s witnesses were turned in the investigation, which is being conducted by the police national fraud squad.

Forer said in response: “I was summoned for questioning once four months ago and I am sure that the matter ended there.”

Stern, a retired IDF general formerly of Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah, is No. 12 on the Yesh Atid slate. He is filling the seat of Education Minister Shay Piron, who left the Knesset for a senior education post.

Stern left Hatnuah before the general election when Livni decided to run on a joint list with the Labor Party. Stern had criticized Livni for the merger and later joined Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid.

“I couldn’t join Livni in her move toward Labor since I’m more centrist or to the right,” he said in a press conference in January.

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