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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Likud members defended Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday against the "Bibitours" allegations, slamming State Control Committee Yoel Hasson's decision to expand State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss' authority.
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"Hasson committed an underhanded, unprecedented act, and turned the important institution of criticizing the state to a political weapon," MK Ze'ev Elkin said in an interview with Army Radio. "Hasson invited the committee members 20 minutes before the meeting started, knowing that committee members were in the plenum."
Elkin charged that Hasson "desecrated the State Control Committee."
Also Thursday morning, Environmental Protection Minister and Likud MK Gilad Erdan told Army Radio that Netanyahu is "an honest man, and any wealthy man who tried to get close to him did not benefit from it."
Erdan explained that "all of Netanyahu's actions got proper organizations, and the media has a distorted picture. He's an honest man."
Drama erupted late Wednesday night in the Knesset when Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin accused Hasson of backhanded dealings, after Hasson’s committee approved a last-minute request to give Lindenstrauss exceptional authorities in probing the “Bibitours” scandal. Rivlin called on Lindenstrauss to “return” the exceptional authorizations to probe Netanyahu approved by the committee during an allegedly spur-of-the-moment vote held on Wednesday afternoon.
The authorizations passed the committee meeting easily, with the two Kadima committee members in attendance readily agreeing to expand Lindenstrauss’s ability to probe Netanyahu for alleged ethical violations regarding overseas travel expenses. The committee granted Lindenstrauss’s senior aide on corruption, Nachum Levi, investigative authority to probe the prime minister, less than a day before Lindenstrauss is expected to announce an official inquiry into the scandal.
Coalition MKs complained that they did not receive ample notice that the meeting was going to be held, and that they were not informed of the subject of the meeting. Rivlin responded by requesting that Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Inon probe Hasson’s actions to determine whether the vote was legal, and said that he too had not received information regarding the topic of the vote.
“The committee’s convening was done in coordination with the Knesset Speaker after we showed the Speaker a letter from the State Comptroller to the committee chairman,” responded Hasson. “All of the committee members received a notice of the meeting detailing the comptroller’s request, and if they had probed the information placed before them, they would have had nothing to complain about – it was all on the table before the Speaker and the committee members.”
Hasson emphasized that he had consulted with the committee’s legal
adviser regarding the committee’s authority, and that it was Rivlin who,
at 1:40 p.m. approved the meeting on the condition that it not be held
after 2:30 p.m. Hasson added that the vote on the proposal was held 15
minutes into the hearing, and that it was the State Comptroller himself
who requested the vote.
“Everybody who is attacking the transfer of authority is essentially
saying to the public that he opposes transferring authority to the
comptroller for the sake of battling corruption,” complained Hasson.