Former Yisrael Beiteinu Lawmaker Kirschenbaum Starts 10-year Bribery Sentence

Faina Kirschenbaum, once Israel's deputy interior minister, starts her sentence after the Supreme Court rejected her request to postpone it until after her appeal

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Former MK Faina Kirschenbaum at her sentencing in Tel Aviv, in July.
Former MK Faina Kirschenbaum at her sentencing in Tel Aviv, in July.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Former Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirschenbaum has started to serve the 10-year prison sentence she got for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. She is serving her sentence at Neveh Tirtza Women’s Prison in Ramle.

In October, the Supreme Court rejected her request to postpone the beginning of her imprisonment until her appeal against the severity of her sentence was heard. The court believed it had little chance of succeeding.

The affair included a method employed by the Yisrael Beiteinu party – led since its inception by Avigdor Lieberman, now the finance minister – in abusing its power to receive funds for the party and for the personal use of its senior members.

Kirschenbaum, who was party secretary, and other people who took bribes, used to help several agencies receive government funds and donations in exchange for a percentage of these monies. These were paid using methods such as the employment of close associates, payments for expenses, fictitious business deals and personal gifts.

Between 2009 and late 2014, Kirschenbaum was in charge of the party’s portion of the so-called “coalition funds” received by all parties in the government, which amounted to 1.2 billion shekels ($380 million) in public funds. The way the money was allocated was at the discretion of the party. According to the court’s ruling, Kirschenbaum took 2 million shekels in bribes for herself and her party.

Kirschenbaum was convicted on 15 counts of receiving bribes and four counts of soliciting bribes, as well as in three counts of fraud and breach of trust. In addition to jail time, she was also sentenced to a suspended 12-month sentence and a 900,000-shekel fine.

The ruling noted that “the accused bypassed proper norms of governance, taking public funds for her personal use … she distributed the booty she extricated from public coffers generously among her friends and family members, as well as taking some of it herself.”

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