PM: I'll Expel Any Likud Member Who Committed Improper Acts

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Tuesday that he would expel from the Likud anyone found to have committed improper acts during the party primary.

"Anyone who is found to have done something improper - I will see to it that he is expelled from the ranks of the Likud," Sharon said in a Channel One interview.

The prime minister also said that he would carry out his threat, even if it meant kicking out ministers or Knesset members.

Two key members of the Likud Central Committee were detained late Monday night by officers of the national police fraud division for alleged attempted bribery in connection with the scandal-shadowed Likud primaries, in which the committee ranked the party's candidates for January 28 general elections. The Tel Aviv Magistrates Court placed the two under house arrest on Tuesday.

Details of the suspicions against the two arrested Likud members, Gil Hadad and Haim Naim, were initially sketchy, but the party has been rocked by a spate of allegations that candidates for the Knesset list offered bribes to members of the party's central committee in return for their votes in the primary election.

The two suspects were the first to be arrested in connection with the widening investigation.

Labor Party Chairman Amram Mitzna charged that the Likud was being taken over by criminals. "There is no doubt...that organized crime is apparently infiltrating a party, a ruling party, and is trying in this way to make achievements," Mitzna told Channel Two TV. "This is the most grave connection between politics and money."

Likud member Nahman Shechter, who competed for a spot on the party's list of Knesset candidates, testified to police Tuesday on proposals he says were made to him by senior Likud Central Committee members. Shechter claims that these included offers to recruit voters on his behalf in exchange for paying the bill for an office phone for one year.

In many cases, fewer than 10 votes could decide whether a candidate had a realistic chance of taking a Knesset seat following the elections, in which polls show the Likud could win as many as 41 seats.

Senior Likud officials, seeking to head off possible electoral damage from charges of widespread corruption, have praised efforts to probe the alleged instances of bribery, which include reports that central committee local bosses, acting as "vote contractors" offered to "deliver" votes for as much as $1,000 each.

Three Labor primary ballot boxes found that weren't countedMeanwhile, the Labor Party recently located three ballot boxes which weren't counted in the primary election. No changes will be made to the Labor list of Knesset candidates, however, because the Labor Party has already approved the list and the deadline has passed to submit any changes to the Central Elections Commission.

The three missing ballot boxes were from Beit Jan, Burgata and Maona. An unofficial counting of the some 600 ballots showed that they would have lowered Yuli Tamir's place in the Labor list from ninth to tenth, and raised that of Yitzhak Herzog to tenth.

The Labor Party had no explanation as to where the ballot boxes disappeared and they they were only located in recent days.

Report: MK hopeful Gamliel used blackmail, bribery to keep Ben-Gurion U. postIn a parallel investigation, Army Radio reported Tuesday that as leader of the Ben-Gurion University students association Gila Gamliel, ranked number 11 on the Likud list for January 28 elections, blackmailed and bribed a fellow student leader to help her prevent her from losing her position.

"There is a suspicion that in the past, Gila Gamliel kept herself from losing the chairmanship of the students association in Be'er Sheva, and was subsequently re-elected for another term, after she threatened student council member Amir Halila that she would reveal information about his past if he did not help her," the radio said.

At the same time, Gamliel allegedly promised Halila that if he backed her, she would name him a director of the student associations' financial arm, "a body that he had already forced to leave under suspicions of theft," the radio said, adding that through Gamliel's intercession, Halila was later promoted to chairman of the financial unit.

Gamliel's heading the Ben-Gurion student association was to prove crucial to her subsequent political success, first as chair of the national students' association and later within the Likud. "The part of Amir Halila not only helped, but was critical to her success," the radio said.

"According to statements by both Halila and Gamliel to student association figures who spoke to us, Amir Halila prevented the collapse of the student council in 2001 and prevented Gamliel's ouster, then in 2002 he enabled her to be re-elected. Both votes were decided by one-vote margins."

Gamliel, who is reportedly under investigation for other suspicions as well, denies all wrongdoing in the matter.

The radio further reported that a month before the primaries, a Likud lawmaker invited a group of Likud Central Committee members to spend the weekend at a Dead Sea resort hotel, receiving one night of free lodging and a discounted rate on the remainder of the weekend. More than 40 Central Committee members accepted the offer.

One of the committeemen who took part in the weekend, Shlomo Madmon of Kfar Sava, later told the radio that MK Avraham Hischson had been the "guest of honor" at the weekend. He said he had been told that the offer of free lodging had been made at the behest of the hotel, which was dedicating its newly renovated facilities.

"They're simply bashing us, bashing us If you look around at everything going on, we're not even reaching the level of the interest of the monumental sums spent by Labor and other parties on hotels and the like,"Madmon said.

"The media has judged us, but nothing's been proven as yet," Madmon continued, addressing Army Radio as a representative of the news media as a whole. "You're not trying to fix the world, that's not the intention - you're just going against the party that is in power, and indirectly, this destroys the people of Israel."