Israel’s UN ambassador being investigated for alleged political patronage


Israel’s U.S. ambassador, Danny Danon, speaking to the media before the U.N. Security Council’s quarterly debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s state prosecutor has ordered police to launch an investigation into Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, over his alleged use of public money to pay for political favors.

The move by Shai Nitzan on Tuesday followed an investigative report by the Israel Television News Company, or Hadashot news, saying that Danon used public funds and donations to pay millions of shekels in fake salaries to Likud activists and their family members so they would support him in the Likud party primaries.

Last week, Israel’s Channels 12 and 13 aired the investigation, which  presented recorded conversations and documents, as well as correspondence about finding jobs for family members of Likud members and supporters.

Danon for nearly a decade beginning in 2006 held the position of World Likud chairman, which according to the investigation exerts great influence on appointments and budgets in national institutions.

In that position, he also was in charge of a nongovernmental organization called Osim Tzionut, or Making Zionism, part of the Zionist Council, which is run by a close Danon confidant and through which Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael is accused of funneling large amounts of money starting in 2012, including during the 2014 Likud primaries when Danon was the only challenger for Likud leadership to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Osim Tzionut reportedly has held several events featuring Danon as speaker, with many Likud activists in the audience. During Danon’s tenure, the NGO went from 20 employees to 200, according to the investigation.

Danon remains involved in the organizations, according to the investigation, which noted that he went from 25th place on the Likud candidate’s list in 2009 to fifth in 2013, to his U.N. appointment following the last elections.

“All of Ambassador Danon’s actions in his public roles have always been in accordance with all rules and regulation, and obviously this examination will confirm that as well,” said a statement issued on behalf of Danon. “At the same time, we’re hoping a similar examination will be done in other departments of the World Zionist Organization and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL), which are headed by political representatives from other parties, such as Meretz, Zionist Union and others.”

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