The Ironies That Link Probed Politicians Herzog and Dery

The 1999 Knesset elections yielded two political dramas. 17 years later, suspicions are again being raised against both politicians.

Dery and Herzog.
Emil Salman

The general elections in May 1999 yielded two political dramas: Suspected of corruption, Shas chairman Arye Dery was forced to resign from political life to allow his faction into the coalition; and, at the same time, an investigation was launched into associates of then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak for alleged violations of campaign funding laws. That investigation later led to the questioning under caution of Cabinet Secretary Isaac Herzog.

Seventeen years later, they seem to be playing that song again: Suspicions are being raised against Dery for financial and real estate malfeasance and Herzog finds himself facing allegations of campaign financing violations, this time relating to the primaries in which he defeated rival Shelly Yacimovich for the Labor Party leadership, in November 2013.

Purim is over; the tumult from the noisemakers has faded and the masks are allegedly coming off. The first reaction in the political arena was to wonder: What? Hadn’t either of them learned anything? How could they fall into the same holes again? After all, neither of them is stupid. Dery sat in jail, Herzog got out by the skin of his teeth after he remained silent during questioning, a silence that haunted him for years. But we shouldn’t rush to pass judgment. Dery is not in the same position as Herzog, and neither of them has even been questioned.

What bothered Herzog more than the revelations that he was under examination was his being linked in the media with the other examinee. In Thursday’s papers he will be featured alongside Dery as the corrupt politicians of the hour, an alliance of the examined.

While Dery insists that he has no idea what he’s being investigated about, Herzog put two and two together and concluded that the examination has to do with a complaint lodged in response to an report in Israel Hayom on the eve of the elections, which claimed that a man Herzog had aided when he was social affairs minister was running an unreported side campaign to discredit Yacimovich.

There is another ironic link between the two of them. Let’s say – and it’s too early to say this – that Dery is questioned under caution and resigns from Shas and from the cabinet. In theory, the coalition will teeter. In theory, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a solution prepared – Isaac Herzog and his Zionist Union faction. But if Herzog also becomes a suspect than he’ll be unable to join the government and rescue the prime minister from his coalition woes.

In the hierarchy of criminal suspicions Herzog is in the basement, with Dery far above him. But the timing was rather cruel to the Zionist Union chairman. Only hours before his name was publicized (by Channel 2 news reporter Amit Segal, following an earlier publication by Gidi Weitz of Haaretz), Herzog’s close associate, Eldad Yaniv, told an interviewer that he thought Dery should resign so he could have time to clear his name. This recommendation may yet boomerang on him.

The full article will appear in Friday’s Haaretz.