Israel Police Seeking Criminal Investigation Against Opposition Leader Herzog

Police ask attorney general for permission to launch criminal investigation against Zionist Union leader, suspected of benefiting from the funding of political activities by interested parties during the primary for the Labor Party leadership in 2013.

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog at an event in honor of MK Shelly Yacimovich, April 10, 2016.
Tomer Appelbaum

Police have asked Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit for permission to launch a criminal investigation against Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog, Channel 2 reported Monday night.

Herzog has been a focus of an examination by the National Fraud Squad on suspicion that he benefited from the funding of political activities by interested parties during the primary for the Labor Party leadership in 2013. 

Over the past few months several people have been summoned for questioning so that police could ascertain whether Herzog may have violated the law in the way he funded his primary campaign, which ended with his defeat of then-party chairman Shelly Yacimovich. Since the examination became public, police have questioned several Herzog associates, some of them under caution, which essentially turned what had been a preliminary examination into a criminal investigation. 

Now police are asking for a green light to question Herzog under caution. They want to find out if Herzog had established an election team during the primaries whose job was to collect dirt on and discredit Yacimovich. The suspicion is that Herzog funded that team through friends and businessmen whose interests he allegedly promoted in the Social Affairs Ministry during his tenure there as minister.

Herzog’s people stressed that the police had only asked to launch an investigation, they have not yet opened an investigation, and whether they would remains for Mendelblit to decide. They noted that Herzog is currently on a diplomatic visit to Berlin, and that once news of the examination got out he announced that he would cooperate with the relevant authorities “to put this saga behind us, and so it will be.”

Last week it was reported that there had been months of discussions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Herzog about bringing Zionist Union into the coalition. The original plan had been for the two sides to come to terms during the spring recess and to present a unity government at the start of the summer session at the end of May. 

Even before the police examination threw a question mark over the process, there had been unresolved gaps, including over diplomatic issues and Herzog’s demand that Habayit Hayehudi be kicked out of the government, which Netanyahu has rejected.