Fri, Jul 09, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Sharon expected to fire minister who plotted to frame opponent


Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is set to fire one of his Cabinet ministers after Israeli TV uncovered a scandal in which a minister is heard in a taped conversation planning to frame a fellow minister, officials said yesterday.

Dramatic two-year-old tapes were broadcast live on Wednesday on Israel Channel One TV, beginning with Cabinet minister Joseph Paritzky detailing his plans to frame fellow Shinui party member and Cabinet minister Avraham Poraz. At the time, both Paritzky and Poraz were lawmakers.

The tapes were followed by a live TV apology by Paritzky, and reports that Sharon had accepted a demand by Shinui party leader, Justice Minister Yosef Lapid, that Paritzky be fired.

The scandal is the latest in a long series of criminal and political intrigues that have rocked Sharon's shaky coalition.

Lapid yesterday confirmed in an interview with Israel's Army Radio that Sharon had agreed to fire Paritzky at Sunday's Cabinet meeting. Israeli media reported that Paritzky was expected to resign yesterday.

Another member of the secular-rights Shinui party is expected to replace Paritzky -- preserving Sharon's shaky coalition.

But the scandal strikes at a time when Sharon is fighting for political survival, attacked by hardliners who oppose his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

In the tapes, Paritzky is heard telling a private investigator: "I have thought of throwing Poraz in the garbage, framing him. Poraz has to be politically annihilated."

Later, Paritzky is heard asking the private investigator to pretend he is an importer of used cars. The plan Paritzky had was to have the supposed used-car dealer approach one of Poraz's associates and then have her press Poraz to push through legislation favorable to used-car importers to make it look like Poraz had been bribed.

"I really am sorry," Paritzky said in a live TV apology. "There were primaries, there were very serious political battles in Shinui. I was a new politician."

The Shinui party secured a huge political victory in the last general election -- rising in its second campaign ever to become the third-largest party in parliament. The party ran on a ticket that attacked ultra-Orthodox Jews and corrupt politicians.

Aware of the damage Paritzky's actions could have, Lapid immediately took to the airwaves, granting interviews to talk shows.

"This is very, very extreme behavior that is intolerable, certainly intolerable in a party like Shinui," Lapid told Israel's Army Radio. "The only thing you can do when you discover such pus is to take a knife and immediately clean the wound ... and I can tell you, it is a very painful wound."

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