JERUSALEM (Apr. 7)
Premier Yitzhak Rabin announced tonight that he was resigning following an investigation into illegal bank accounts he and his wife, Leah, held in Washington. In a special radio announcement Rabin said he accepted full responsibility for the joint offense.
Rabin heads a caretaker government which cannot resign and must serve until the next general elections May 17. But his announcement almost certainly means that he will not lead the party in the next elections. Defense Minister Shimon Peres, Rabin’s arch-rival, now seems to be the person to take the party reins.
Earlier in the day, a Finance Ministry administrative penalty committee fined the Premier and his wife IL150,000 for holding the illegal bank account, according to Maariv. The newspaper also reported that the Rabins held two accounts in Washington, not one, containing $10,000 not $2000 as Mrs. Rabin had claimed.
Mrs. Rabin closed the account some weeks after a newsman discovered its existence. At the time she said there was $2000 in it, deposited while Rabin was Ambassador to Washington, and she donated the money to charity for autistic children. The Israeli radio report today said that as far as it was known, there were no deposits into the account since the Rabins left Washington in 1973, only withdrawals. Under Israeli law, citizens of Israel must close all foreign accounts within six months of their return to the country.
Maariv said that at one point between March, 1973, when the Rabins left Washington and should have closed the account, and the present time, there was $20,000 in the account. It was not clear from the newspaper report whether this referred to both accounts together. Mrs. Rabin, according to the Premier, took out sums of money during her several visits to Washington.
The penalty committee, according to Maariv, imposed an IL 100,000 fine on the $10,000 that had apparently been spent over the years in the U.S. and another IL 50,000 on the $10,000 that had been brought home after the affair was revealed by Haaretz some weeks ago.
NEW EMBARRASSMENTS TO THE RABINS
The new embarrassments to the Rabins caused by these latest developments are, one, they show Mrs. Rabin was not telling the truth when she said there was only $2000 in the account, and two, they show she was again inaccurate when she indicated that the account had been effectively dormant since they had left Washington and had been left open “by oversight,” according to newspaper reports.
The Premier himself, expressly or by implication, confirmed all his wife’s explanations of the affair and admitted that the account was owned jointly by him. Suspicions were aroused early in the affair when Dan Margalit, the Haaretz correspondent who first discovered the account, reported that Leah Rabin’s uncle in New York, to whom the bank sent periodic statements, had told him the account was used by Mrs. Rabin for “pocket money” during her frequent U.S. visits. This did not jibe with her explanation that the account had been inactive.
Likud Knesseters kept up pressure on the Finance Ministry to investigate the affair expeditiously and Rabin himself demanded that it be handled just the same as any ordinary case. However, in most ordinary cases, if the sum involved is more than $5000, the file is turned over to the police for a criminal investigation which can result in charges being filed. The decision to turn over the file is one of discretion, and is usually in the hands of the Attorney General.
Meanwhile, Likud MK Yehezkel Flumin, who has spearheaded the opposition’s involvement in the affair, has publicly called on the authorities to turn over the case to the police–as would, he said, be done normally when such sums were involved. It would be “absolutely wrong,” Flumin said, to make do with the administrative penalty that had reportedly been imposed.
Political pundits, meanwhile, are seeking links between the account and the reports in 1973 that Rabin, while serving as Ambassador, had taken large fees for appearances at Bar Mitzvahs and other private Jewish occasions.