Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks during his Likud party meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s most common nickname these days is “King Bibi,” but maybe it should be “Teflon Bibi.”
It is far too early to know anything certain, but indications are that he will survive the latest state comptroller report on the Bibi Tours Affair without a criminal probe – yet again.
Netanyahu has been stalked over the years by accusations of misuse of public funds on numerous occasions corresponding to colorful affair titles like “Bedgate” and “Bottlegate.”
However, unlike with former prime minister Ehud Olmert who is currently serving at least 18 months in prison for criminal financial violations, none of his accusers have gotten the allegations against Netanyahu to stick and none have even led to a criminal probe to date.
Appearing before the High Court of Justice on the gas deal he even joked that it was his first time ever in court.
Why will he likely escape unscathed legally?
No doubt he will take a political hit from some ugly looking information about foreign rich people and groups paying for his stays in New York, London and the French Riviera.
The same goes for foreigners paying for his wife’s, sons and security details flights as well as a former employee paying for some of his personal costs.
But nothing Netanyahu did, at least from what is in the four corners of t the report, goes beyond ugly or unfitting (the mantra of the comptroller) to stinking explicitly of illegality.
Nothing explicitly shows that he did anything in return for the business people and groups that funded his flights.
And all of the ministers were doing the exact same thing back in the day 11-13 years ago. Today’s stricter rules are far more recent.
Moreover, former attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein already tried to close the book on this in September 2014.
How many people really think that Netanyahu’s former cabinet secretary and current Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit is going to go out of his way to override Weinstein’s order just because the comptroller wants him to and said he found some new evidence.
There is also an ongoing debate about whether the allegations are too old to be criminally prosecuted, with the statute of limitations arguably having passed.
The main wildcard in all this is the double-billing accusations and allegations of using public sector bonus miles for personal use.
They are mentioned in a sentence in the report, but the details are excluded since Mandelblit may decide to probe them more seriously.
If there is a smoking fun in those new details, then we could be looking at a whole different game.
But based on his invincible past batting average, “Teflon Bibi” will not be in a police interrogation room or a courtroom anytime soon.