Jerusalem (Nov. 8)
Welfare Minister Aharon Abu-Hatzeira will go on leave from his ministerial duties as soon as his second trial resumes later this month in a Tel Aviv District Court, the Voice of Israel radio reported today.
There was no confirmation of the report and the Cabinet, too, reportedly did not discuss the issue at its weekly session today. However, the Voice of Israel political correspondent stated this development as fact, saying that Abu-Hatzeira would not return to his office until the end of his trial, scheduled to resume Nov. 22.
Abu-Hatzeira, who heads the Tami faction, a partner of Premier Menachem Begin’s coalition government, is charged with embezzlement and theft in connection with his administration of a charitable fund when he served as Mayor of Ramleh in 1976-77. The Supreme Court ruled last week, 4-1 to reject an appeal by the Minister that his re-election to the Knesset last June restored his immune status as a Knesset member which had been lifted by the previous Knesset.
His immunity was lifted for his first trial on charges that he accepted bribes in return for monetary grants by his Ministry to Hasidic and other religious institutions in Bnei Brak. He was found not guilty. His second trial had been interrupted pending the outcome of the appeal.
Justice Minister Moshe Nissin is one of those who reportedly urged Abu-Hatzeira to take leave. The main argument in favor of such a step is that under civil service regulations, civil servants who face criminal charges are immediately suspended from work. This is not the case with Ministers, since the law did not take into account the possibility that Ministers would face such charges and would not take leave on their own initiative.