Questions Raised Over Israeli Civil Servant Nominee's Political Contribution

Documents show that Iris Stark, a candidate for a civil service committee, contributed to social equality minister. Stark says she withdrew the contribution

File photo: Iris Stark in 2015.
Eyal Toueg

The Prime Minister’s Office has stated that a candidate for membership on the committee for senior appointments in the Civil Service, accountant Iris Stark, had no connections to any members of the cabinet, but documents from the office of State Comptroller Joseph Shapira state that she contributed 5,000 shekels (about $1,400) to Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel in 2012. Stark claims that she withdrew the contribution.

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A legal opinion about Stark that was appended to the proposal and written by the legal adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office, Shlomit Barnea-Farago, stated: “Based on the questionnaire that Ms. Stark filled out, she has no personal interest in the area of the committee’s work. Neither does she have any party, personal or business connections with any government minister or a criminal past of any kind.”

Haaretz found that Stark, an executive partner in the accounting firm of Stark & Stark, in fact has a connection to Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, in the form of the contribution. According to the State Comptroller’s Office, in October 2012, Stark contributed the 5,000 shekels, apparently ahead of the Likud primary preceding the Knesset elections that took place three months later. According to Stark, her contribution was withdrawn shortly thereafter and her money was refunded. However, no statement from Stark indicates when the contribution was cancelled and she still appears in the state comptroller’s official records.

On Sunday, the cabinet is due to approve the new composition of the senior appointments committee, the panel to which Stark has now been nominated. The proposed chairman of the committee is retired Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg. The two other proposed new faces on the committee are Brig. Gen. (res.) Jacob Nagel, who until recently a member of the National Security Council, and Stark. The three are to replace retired Supreme Court Justice Jacob Tirkel, former Justice Minister Moshe Nissim and former MK Gila Finkelstein.

In addition to Stark, the other two stated on questionnaires that they submitted that they had no party or personal connection to any government ministers.

For her part, Stark said: “The legal officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and the attorney general’s office checked and approved the candidacy to the special committee for senior appointments.”

The Prime Minister’s Office stated: “Stark made a declaration about the contribution to the Prime Minister’s Office, and that declaration was checked and approved by that office, a declaration that was examined and approved by the Justice Ministry. Other subjects about which she made declarations were also examined and approved by the Justice Ministry.”

Stark holds a number of positions on public bodies, including the advisory council to the Mifal Hapayis lottery commission. According to a report in the business daily Calcalist, in 2014, the committee that vets appointments for positions in government companies rejected Stark’s candidacy for chairwoman of the board of the Public Works Authority after she provided imprecise details in response to a question as to whether in the five previous years a state comptroller’s report was published that might contain information relevant to her candidacy. Stark had been chairwoman of the board of the Ashdod Port from 2004 to 2007, during which time the state comptroller criticized the operations of the port’s management.