Police Recommend Criminal Charges Against Senior Netanyahu Adviser

Perah Lerner, the prime minister adviser on Knesset affairs, has been under investigation for nearly a year on suspicion of fraud and breach of trust.

Olivier Fitoussi

Police recommended on Monday to indict a senior adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under suspicion of fraud and breach of trust.

Perah Lerner, Netanyahu's adviser on Knesset affairs, has been under investigation since July 2015 by request of then attorney general Yehuda Weinstein.

According to police, evidence has been collected against Lerner for acting in cases of conflicting interests and using her position to benefit her husband, Avi Lerner, a public relations executive, by passing him information not available to the public.

Lerner's husband is the PR person for the pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom, and is also employed by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and the Gush Etzion Regional Council.

Lerner was suspended from her position in October, but beforehand she was considered one of the strongest women in the Likud and one of the most important figures surrounding Netanyahu earning herself a place among the decision makers in the prime minister's office. 

As the prime minister's adviser on Knesset affairs, Lerner was expected to insure that certain legislation would enjoy majorities in Knesset committees and plenary sessions. This meant closing deals between coalition members.

"This is no simple task, but Perah knew to do the job brilliantly," said one source in the Knesset. "Perah is not a person who chases headlines, but works exhaustively behind the scenes to connect all the corners and make sure that no party sticks its foot out in the last moment before a vote."

The suspicions against Lerner surprised many in the Knesset.

However, there were many instances in the work of Lerner and her husband that raised the potential for problematic conflict of interests. Just one example Perah took action among Knesset members to insure the defeat of the "Israel Hayom bill," meant to prevent the free daily distribution of her the newspaper where her husband works.