The evolving scandal concerning Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s election campaign has little to do with foreign contributions, as emphasized in the recent “spin” that has appeared in most of the foreign media. Instead, the scandal has much to do with Barak’s handling of phony non-profit organizations that were founded overnight to help the Barak campaign.
Israeli political campaigns had previously witnessed foreign campaign contributions, not all of which had been entirely legal. That is nothing new.
What is new is that the Registrar of Israel’s Non-Profit Organization Authority in the Israel Ministry of Interior and the Israel State Comptroller have both issued unprecedented scathing reports concerning another subject entirely — that twenty three fictitious health, education and welfare organizations were spawned by the Barak campaign overnight, all of which laundered funds to the Barak campaign.
There had been an unwritten rule in the Israeli public sector, which is that no one should use non-profit organizations as a conduit to funnel money for Israeli political candidates, let alone create them for that purpose. Non-profit organizations have literally built the infrastructure of the state of Israel, chanelling generos contributions to the Jewish state from Jews and non-Jews who have wanted to make the young state of Israel flourish, so that it could fulfill its national purpose, which is to gather in Jews from the four corners of the globe.
Barak broke that cardinal rule. The chances are that Barak and his supporters, both in Israel and abroad, will pay for that breach of trust.
In Israel, foreign campaign contributions remains a misdemeanor, for which many Israeli political parties have been fined. However, fraud in the transfer of funds through fictitious non-profit organizations remains a felony, both in the US and in Israel.
Israel had never before witnessed such a violation of the public trust during a political campaign – and that is what is now being investigated by the Israeli police and by the FBI.
Herein lies the scandal of the Israeli 1999 political campaign.
The question that the American administration will ask itself is the same question that the Israeli electorate now asks: Is Ehud Barak a man of integrity?