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Investigation Into Ethics Violations Considered

JERUSALEM — Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein is considering calling for a police investigation of Likud Knesset members suspected of double-voting for the economic austerity plan passed by the Knesset last week.

Rubinstein discussed the issue on Tuesday with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who has filed a complaint with the Knesset ethics committee against one of the suspected lawmakers, Michael Gorlovsky. Gorlovsky has admitted to voting on behalf of fellow Likud member Gilead Erdan. His case was taken up this week by the Knesset house committee.

Another Likud lawmaker, Inbal Gavrieli, has admitted that a colleague voted in her place while she was absent from the Knesset plenum. Yechiel Hazan, another Likud member, is suspected of casting her vote, but he has not admitted doing so.

The budget passed May 30 by a 52-1 vote. The lopsided vote followed an opposition walkout after the Knesset narrowly decided to invoke a rarely used rule shutting off debate.

In their meeting, Rubinstein approved Rivlin’s decision to bring the Gorlovsky case to the Knesset ethics committee, saying the issue cuts to the heart of parliamentary procedure and that extreme caution was warranted before activating a criminal investigation procedure. However, Rubinstein said, since no Knesset member has admitted to voting in place of Gavrieli, only the police can discover what really happened. “I’m not an investigator or a judge, so in such a situation only the police can investigate the voting fraud,” Rubinstein said.

Double-voting by citizens at the ballot box is considered a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison. However, legal sources say it is unclear whether voting fraud within the halls of the Knesset is under the jurisdiction of the courts or the Knesset’s own disciplinary rules.

The incident has prompted calls from opposition leaders and public figures for a broader investigation, independent of the Knesset, into Likud activities leading up to the budget vote.

The Likud won 40 seats in the 120-seat Knesset in elections held last February that were tainted with widespread allegations of fraud and bribery.

Gavrieli admitted this week that she was absent from several votes and that someone had voted in her place, but she refused to say who it was. The printout of the electronic election results also indicates that someone voted in her place.

Several Likud members told Israel Radio on Tuesday that they had seen Hazan, who sits next to Gavrieli, reaching over to press her voting button.

“It’s possible that I voted in her place by accident; I’m not sure,” Hazan said Monday night. “It’s definitely possible that while voting on thousands of amendments I leaned on Gavrieli’s table or took some of her stuff. I’m convinced that there’s a basic misunderstanding.”

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