NGO to comptroller: Publicize ‘Bibi Tours’ report

As storm over "Bed-gate" heats up, good-governance watchdog asks comptroller to publicize report on allegedly problematic flight funding.

May 16, 2013 02:28
2 minute read.
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

The good-governance NGO Ometz this week sent a letter to State Comptroller Joseph Shapira requesting that he publish his much-followed ‘Bibi-Tours’ report regarding Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s allegedly problematic flights funded by wealthy associates from late 1990s to the early 2000s.

The watchdog’s letter to Shapira came after the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel requested that Shapira investigate the “Bed-gate” scandal, also connected to Netanyahu’s alleged penchant for overdone luxurious travel.

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While the two stories overlap thematically, the Bibi Tours Affair is from a year ago and involves allegations of unethical conduct, whereas “Bed-gate” relates to Netanyahu’s recent flights as prime minister and is merely a blackeye from a public relations perspective during a time when the state is swamped with talk of budget cuts.

Following an exposé on how much Netanyahu’s double bed cost on his recent flight to London, he announced on Saturday night that he would no longer ask that a double bed be installed on his plane during short trips such as to Europe.

On Friday night, Channel 10 reported that for Netanyahu’s flight to the United Kingdom for Margaret Thatcher’s funeral last month, the Prime Minister’s Office had requested that a double bed be installed, costing taxpayers $127,000.

The Prime Minister’s Office reacted to the exposé, saying that Netanyahu was not aware of the decision to install a bed for that flight. Nevertheless, immediately following the report, the office released a detailed explanation of why it was decided he should have the bed.

Sources close to the prime minister said, “It is important that he sleeps well in order to comply with complex tasks, but it’s possible to do so at a much lower cost, and this is what will be done.”

Two other airlines, Israir and Arkia, could have been used for the flight at a far cheaper cost of around $300,000 (versus the $427,000 cost of the El Al flight), but were eliminated from any real chance of running the flight as they did not have sufficient space on board to accommodate a double bed.

The Bibi-Tours Affair has been on pause since February when Netanyahu and 30 other ministers and deputy ministers reportedly submitted their responses to a draft of the State Comptroller’s Report.

The draft reportedly reviewed allegations of improper funding and double billing for international trips Netanyahu and other top officials took.

Shapira sent Netanyahu the draft of the report at the end of December, Channel 2 reported at the time.

In March 2011, Channel 10 investigative reporter Raviv Drucker reported on his show, Hamakor, on a series of flights that Netanyahu took with his wife, Sara, in the late 1990s and early 2000s – flights allegedly funded by wealthy associates.

According to Drucker’s report, Netanyahu allegedly used a carefully crafted network of such associates to finance private flights, luxury hotel suites, first-class restaurants, and trips abroad for himself and his family – benefits that the show characterized as ethical infractions.

In April 2011, Drucker made additional allegations on his show, alleging that on two occasions before he became prime minister, Netanyahu billed different organizations for the same flight.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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