JERUSALEM (Sep. 3)
The National Religious Party is being severely shaken by charges of corruption against Minister of Religious Affairs Aharon Abu-Hatzeira, one of three NRP ministers in the Cabinet.
The Jerusalem Post in its lead story today reported that “five charges of bribery and fraud” were likely to be completed against Abu-Hatzeira. Police sources have revealed that the investigation has found that funds were channelled to non-existent yeshivas and other yeshivas were given money for twice as many students as they actually had. The money allegedly wanted to the Minister and his NRP faction.
Interior Minister Yosef Burg, an NRP Minister who also heads the police department, Justice Minister Moshe Nissim and Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir met with Premier Menachem Begin yesterday to discuss the case. The police may seek to have Abu-Hatzeira’s immunity as a Knesset member revoked.
Zamir, meanwhile, met last night with Binyamin Siegel the top police fraud investigator and approved his request to grant Yisrael Gottlieb, Deputy Mayor of Bnei Brak and an NRP member, the status of state’s witness with immunity from prosecution. The Jerusalem Past quoted police sources as saying Gottlieb has claimed be transferred millions of shekels of Ministry funds slated for Bnei Brak yeshivas back to Abu-Hatzeira at the latter’s request.
ENMITY WITHIN THE NRP
The investigation has deepened the enmity within the NRP between the faction headed by Abu-Hatzeira and that headed by Burg. Burg has cancelled a trip to the United States on behalf of the United Jewish Appeal, apparently to stay close to the case.
Abu Hatzeira’s supporters are calling for an investigation into the Ministry of Interior. Some are charging that Abu-Hatzeira would not be the subject of an investigation if he was not a Maroccan Jew.
Meanwhile, Abu-Hatzeira was cheered last night at a public celebration in Ramich where he was formerly mayor. President Yitzhak Navon sot next to the Minister during the meeting, but his office later stressed that the invitation had been issued some three months ago, long before the news of the investigation became public.