It is doubtful as to whether or not I would have the courage to say what Yoel Neuman says about the leaders of the Settlement in the Shomron (West Bank). If I were Yoel, and with less than one month to go before the elections, I am not sure that I would feel comfortable saying that those who were supposed to build in the Shomron hadn’t used their funds towards that end. Bentzi Lieberman and Gershon Mesika and their cronies, who received mountains of cash from the state to build houses in the Shomron, didn’t quite manage to utilize their resources for what they are always trying to convince us is of primary importance—to build.
Yoel Neuman is one of the founders of Yitzhar. To call him a right-winger would be like calling Michael Jordan a basketball player. At one point, Itai Rom and I were walking with him around a hilltop in Yitzhar, and I said to him, “Yoel, I have never met a man as radical as you.” He responded, “I am radical? You should meet my son. According to him I am a moderate.”
“Moderate? Give me an example of how this moderation manifests itself,” I asked.
“Up until a few years ago,” Neuman replied, “I was ready to give Damascus up to the Arabs for 50 years for genuine peace.” He half chuckled. Neuman functioned as the director of the Organization for the Development of the Shomron. His legal suit against the heads of the organization has been reviewed already by Kalman Liebeskind of Maariv and Haim Levinson of Haaretz. The story has gained some serious momentum. First, Neuman passed the organization’s accounting files for those expenses blandly labeled “miscellaneous” to the police. Under “miscellaneous” one can find all the payments that the police fear are essentially bribes. The organization paid them, under the instructions of the Head of Shomron Regional Council, Gershon Mesika, so that senior politicians would erase the organization’s debts and set aside (government) funds for its budget. These payments were made to members of the inner circles of senior Knesset Members and ministers. In recordings that Baruch Kara uncovered, one could hear the CEO of the Organization for the Development of the Shomron speaking about it. In the investigation on Source (“Makor”) tonight, we will determine to what degree the CEO, Haim Ben Shushan, spoke truthfully. We will trace each payment and its ultimate connection to a political figure that the organization was willing to pay a hefty price for. For example, there is the story of Moshe Gafni, who was the Chairman of the Finance Committee, which is no less than astounding.
The indirect bribery of politicians, however, is only part of the story. The bigger story is a different one altogether. As Itai and I began to dig through the financial records, in an attempt to determine where the Organization for Developing the Shomron’s huge debts had come from, how they had shockingly been erased year after year, and what drives this system, we uncovered how high up into the country’s leadership this story reaches. Successive Ministers of Finance, from Bejamin Netanyahu, through Roni Bar-On, and ending with Yuval Steinitz, who convened discussions with the heads of the Yesha (Judea, Samaria, Gaza) Council and divvied up money to them, also erased debts that were incurred for no good or justified reason. The Finance Ministry erased hundreds of millions of Shekels of debt, yes, hundreds of millions, without a report, without oversight, and without any justification. In addition to our conversations with current and former senior Finance Ministry officials about this issue, we also sent the ministry a request for an official comment. The Ministry of Finance simply could not muster a response. The Department of the Budget passed the buck to the Accountant General, the Accountant General to the Department of the Budget. Uneblievable.
And Neuman? He lives in an extremely modest house in Yitzhar, the house in which he raised eight kids, and he is currently out of work. Without getting too emotional, it is very clear that once the “King of the Shomron,” Gershon Mesika, perhaps the most important man in Likud, is suddenly arrested, even the neighbors will understand that perhaps Yoel Neuman, the crazy man who lives next door to them, wasn’t just babbling.
Translation by Ari Heistein