With U.S. Jewish Sponsor, ex-IDF Chief Eyes Knesset Bid

Maj. Gen. (res. ) Dan Halutz raises about NIS 391,000 for a run for a position with an undisclosed political party.

In a recent three-week period, former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Maj. Gen. (res. ) Dan Halutz raised about NIS 391,000 for a run for a position with a political party, the identity of which he has not disclosed. This information was contained in a report that Halutz handed Monday to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss. Most of the sum, about NIS 373,000, is from a single donor, Jeffrey Silverman, an American active in the Chicago Jewish community.

Dan Halutz
Nir Keidar

Last night Halutz told Haaretz "I don't have anything to hide." However, he declined to comment on the matter.

At the end of last month, it was reported that Halutz is expected in the coming months to join the Kadima party. At the time, he responded: "Nothing will happen in September. That doesn't mean things won't be happening later."

According to the report, broadcast on Channel 10, the former IDF chief was expected to join Kadima within a matter of weeks as he wished to undertake an early start to a political campaign. It was thought Halutz was seeking to put public discussion of his conduct during the 2006 Second Lebanon War behind him to the greatest extent possible prior to the next Knesset election campaign.

In recent years, Silverman has been a major contributor to Friends of the IDF in the United States. In 2009, Silverman received the Yonatan Netanyahu Memorial Award from the organization for what the group said was his outstanding support for the soldiers of Israel. In 2006, he was active in an "Adopt a Battalion" program in which donors committed to provide three years of support. He was a participant in a Friends of the IDF mission to Israel in May of that year, during which one of the people he met was Halutz.

In the report to the State Comptroller, Halutz noted several additional individuals from whom he received much smaller contributions, ranging between NIS 1,000 and NIS 3,000. Most of them are former senior Israel Air Force officials who would have known Halutz personally as he is also a former head of the air force. Some were in Halutz's air force Phantom jet squadron. One of the contributors, former Phantom navigator Yoram Romem, said last night that he was "not interested in talking to journalists," but added that "other people [who contributed to Halutz] could be contacted, and I hope there are a lot of them."

By law, any candidate for a party primary is required to report contributions he or she received to the State Comptroller. For the moment at least, Halutz is considered a candidate who is not affiliated with a party. According to the 2008 party financing law, anyone running in a party election can raise funds up to a ceiling set according to the number of members of a given party. The law provides that a party with up to 99,000 members can raise a total of NIS 402,000. This limitation, in addition to the fact that Halutz has almost reached the maximum sum, is an indication that he intends to run for a post in a major party. Kadima has about 100,000 members.

The fact that Halutz has raised such a large sum two years before the next scheduled Knesset election (currently set for March 2013 ) could be an indication that he has begun the race for a party position to prepare for the eventuality that the election might be brought forward.

It was thought among sources at the Knesset yesterday that Halutz's fundraising activities were carried out on the prospect that a Knesset election might actually be held at the end of next year or the beginning of 2012. Recent Knesset terms lasted only about three years and parliamentary sources speak of a similar fate for the longevity of the current Knesset. It is possible that Halutz believes that at the end of the construction freeze in the West Bank settlements, which expires next month, the current coalition would break up and elections brought forward.