Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, board a flight to Britain, February 5, 2017.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
The investigation into whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke the law by accepting gifts from millionaires around the world will prove that he was clean, his former director of foreign affairs Rena Krakowski Riger said over the weekend.
Riger worked closely with Netanyahu from 2000 to 2003, when he was a private citizen and subject to fewer laws, yet she said he was very careful even then. Her support for Netanyahu is considered significant, because many of his former aides left on bad terms and have not rushed to defend him.
“Although it bothers me to see the press constantly nitpicking at the prime minister and his family, I am happy that finally there will be an investigation, which will ultimately prove that there was much ado about nothing,” Riger wrote in a Facebook post.
In an interview, Riger said the gift investigation surprised her because Netanyahu was always very careful. She stressed that she was unaware of all the evidence in the hands of the police, but that based on her experience with the prime minister, he would not have done what he has been accused of doing in the press.
“He and his wife always stayed above board,” Riger said. “If that is what he did when he was a private citizen, I can only imagine he has been even more careful since he came back to office.”
Riger traveled abroad with Netanyahu and his family and handled logistics for all of his trips during her tenure. She said she was always treated with the utmost respect by Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.
“The trips were always managed with great care, especially when there were several organizations inviting the prime minister,” she said. “There was no double- booking or misuse of funds. That was the direct order from the prime minister. As a person who cared about my boss’s reputation as well as my own, I would never have dared to do anything that would reek of impropriety.”
Riger said she was asked by Netanyahu’s attorney David Shimron to prepare a report for the tax authorities listing all the trips that the family had taken and who had paid for them. She said that years later, the reports were stolen by the press off of the laptop that she returned to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Netanyahu was cleared in an investigation of who paid for his travels abroad, known as the “Bibi Tours” scandal.
Riger downplayed the gifts accepted by Netanyahu and his family, saying that billionaires naturally give larger birthday and bar mitzva gifts than those who cannot afford to spend a lot of money. She noted that when she got married, a wealthy businessman who was a friend of the prime minister gave her a gift worth $500.
“For a billionaire, that’s a drop in the bucket,” she said. “Wealthy people who are generous give those gifts to friends and acquaintances.”
Riger is now a director at Neteera Technologies Ltd. She maintains a positive relationship with Netanyahu and his family.
Regarding the submarine scandal in which Shimron has been implicated, Riger said she expects Netanyahu and Shimron to be cleared.
“I understand why it looks bad,” she said. “But Shimron keeps things super clean. Everything I know of his law office indicates that they’re careful in every step they take, and things are compartmentalized, so if he represents one client the other won’t know.”