Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, the first Israeli prime minister to appear as a witness in a criminal trial, testified today that he did not discuss campaign contributions when he met a land merchant who is accused of bribing officials.
Shamir, who appeared for the defense in the case of Shmuel Einav, said he had met him several times but did not discuss campaign contributions.
Einav contributed several thousand dollars to the prime minister's right-wing Likud bloc. He is accused of bribing officials for permits to sell land in the occupied West Bank.
The defense contends Einav contributed funds to the campaign at the request of Likud leaders, while the prosecution claims the money was given to party officials in return for help in obtaining land sale permits and building licenses in the West Bank.
On Stand for Hour
Shamir smiled often and appeared relaxed as he answered defense and prosecution questions for nearly one hour in the Tel Aviv District Court.
The questions concerned two meetings between Shamir and Einav in the summer of 1984 at the height of the Likud's election campaign.
The case, along with several land scams revealed in the summer of 1985, slowed down efforts by the Likud and private land dealers to build settlements in the West Bank, where about 60,000 Jewish settlers live among 800,000 Palestinians.
Defense attorney Dan Sheinman repeatedly asked Shamir about the contents of the two meetings and whether campaign contributions had been discussed.
"I was very busy, and I cannot be expected to remember the exact content of the meeting . . . one of several hundred," Shamir said.
Tells of Exhortations
He also said he generally did not discuss campaign contributions with party supporters. "My job was to exhort them to be active, to be interested in the success of the party in elections so as to push forward Jewish settlement (in the West Bank)," he said.
Shamir said he first met with Einav in the presence of Michael Dekel, then-deputy agriculture minister, who was in charge of West Bank projects for the Likud. The two men met a second time in the presence of about 20 other West Bank contractors and land dealers who complained about red tape delaying land permits, he said.
"I told them we would try and solve their problems," Shamir said without elaboration.