Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, was behind hiring and paying dozens of Likud party activists and their relatives with public funds in return for their political support, according to an investigative report that aired Monday.
The Israel Television News Company, previously known as Channel 2, reported that Danon, a former Likud lawmaker, had achieved much of his power while serving as chairman of the World Likud organization from 2006 to 2015. The post wields considerable influence over appointments and budgets in various semi-official national institutions, among them the Jewish National Fund and World Zionist Organization.
For instance, Danon apparently appointed a confidant, Yaakov Hagoel, to head a nonprofit organization called Osim Tzionut (Doing Zionism) under the auspices of the WZO’s Zionist Council. After Hagoel was hired, JNF began transferring millions of shekels in public funding and donations to the nonprofit annually. The transfers beginning in 2012 with a total of 2 million shekels (around $530,000) and reached 15 million shekels in 2014. Over this period, the number of employees at the nonprofit reportedly jumped from 20 to almost 200.
Danon and Hagoel established a project named Eshkolot, which was intended to promote Zionism around Israel. They appointed a large number of Likud activists as coordinators for the project, with salaries of thousands of shekels a month apparently in return for very little work.
The Israel Television News report revealed correspondence in which Danon gives instructions about whom to hire. These included a request that the city of Kiryat Gat hire the daughter of a local member of the Likud Party Central Committee, and that the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim should consult with Knesset member David Amsalem as to whom it should hire. The daughter of the Likud central committee member, Shiran Magidish of Kiryat Gat, was quoted as saying: “How did I start? My father is a Likud activist and they know him, so they asked him.”
Danon also gave instructions for the daughter of the then-mayor of Dimona, Benny Biton, to be given a job. “It wasn’t a lot of work, once a week,” said his daughter, Na’ama.
Danon also apparently helped appoint Moshe Marciano, son of the head of the local Likud branch, to a position in the city of Modi’in. He worked for about two hours a month. Another Likud activist from the north, M., was quoted in the report as saying: “In general, I did nothing, just cutting and pasting everything and getting the money.”
Dor Harlap, a member of the Likud central committee from Petah Tikva, said he helped collect signatures, working to pressure members of the Likud secretariat and helping bring in votes for the party. Another Likud activist, Elhanan Raziel, said he aided Danon in enlisting voters to support him in three Likud primaries. He said that he was told that if he recruited 150 new members for Likud, he would be promoted.
Another accusation concerned the advertising agency Gal Oren, which produced events and campaign materials for Danon’s campaigns during the Likud primaries. The same agency was allegedly also hired by Osim Tzionut for advertising and strategic consulting, said the report. The State Comptroller’s Office discovered that the firm received hundreds of thousands of shekels from the organization without a competitive bidding process or proper documentation. The comptroller called the contract “improper.”
In response, Danon said the news company regrettably ignored his request for an appropriate amount of time to rebut its claims, and added that he had in no way acted improperly. He called the investigation an attempt to slander him.
The WZO’s Zionist Council said the claims levelled in the report were absurd and baseless.
Gal Oren said there was no connection between its work for Danon’s primary campaign and the services they proudly provided to hundreds of other customers, including the Zionist Council.
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