Inquiry on Secret Funds, Wiretapping Have Earmark of an Israeli Watergate

Allegations of corruption against Interior Minister Arye Deri, secret recordings of a conversation between an investigative journalist and a police inspector, and the tape’s mysterious disappearance have all added up to an Israeli version of the Watergate scandal.

Deri, who had been a rising star in the Shas party, is being investigated for an illegal transfer of public funds. Both Police Inspector General Ya’acov Terner and Yediot Achronot journalist Mordechai Gilat have been conducting separate investigations into the matter, and allegedly coordinated aspects of their efforts in a telephone conversation.

That discussion was recorded without Gilat’s knowledge.

Yehoshua Matza, chairman of the Knesset Interior Committee, planned to discuss the contents of the tape at his committee’s meeting Tuesday, but was prohibited from doing so by Attorney General Yosef Harish.

Then, in response to a petition by Yediot Acharonot’s Gilat and two other journalists, Israel’s High Court of Justice issued a temporary order banning use of the recording.

Gilat explained to the court that if the Interior Committee listened to the tape, it would amount to using information obtained illegally by wiretapping his phone. “The use of wiretapped information in the Knesset ridicules the law,” Gilat’s petition read, “which is a particulary grave offense, since it would be used against a journalist who has the right of immunity on his sources.”

Terner said that he had no objection to the contents of the tape being made public.

After the police traced the wiretap to Gilat’s telephone line, the tape of the conversation disappeared for several days. Though the police held several suspects in connection with the recording affair, they did not know the whereabouts of the tape.

Then, according to Terner himself, the police received an anonymous phone call on Sunday night. It led them to a Tel Aviv coffee shop, where the tape was found.

Shas has accused the Israel police of acting with a “negative approach” and unacceptable methods in its investigation of party member Deri.

Shas members also reportedly complained that on the tape, Terner made “derogatory comments” about the Sephardic community. It is not clear how Shas knows what Terner said in the taped conversation, since the party has not acknowledged ever possessing the recording.

Police Minister Ronni Milo has declared that he will expose the “entire truth” regarding the allegations against Deri and the wiretapping incident. Results of the police investigation will be passed on to Attorney General Harish, he said.

NEXT STORY