(photo credit: Channel 2)
The Likud on Thursday evening issued what it described as proof that Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had not double-billed flight expenses, hours after
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein’s office announced that he would review
evidence prior to deciding whether to open a probe into the so-called Bibi-Tours
Party officials said that attorney David Shimron, who represents
Netanyahu, had provided proof that the two organizations allegedly both billed
for the same flights were actually the same organization.
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earlier, Channel 10’s news-expose program Hamakor alleged that Netanyahu
doublebilled travel expenses. According to the report, Netanyahu attended a
fundraising event in the US in 2006 for the Ashdod Medical Center, billing it
$8,237 for the flights. He also allegedly billed the Jewish Heritage Foundation
the same amount for flights taken on the same dates.
If correct, this
would contradict statements made last week by Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, that there
was no double-billing involved in flights Netanyahu took.
claimed that the Jewish Heritage Foundation International is the organization
that gathers donations for the Ashdod Medical Center.
Earlier in the day,
Kadima representatives requested that Weinstein open a criminal investigation
into the affair.
“The requests that were received by the
attorney-general’s office will be examined as soon as possible by the
attorney-general and prosecutors,” responded Weinstein’s office in an official
statement. “After that, it will be decided if there are grounds to continue the
probe in our office, or if we must wait until the conclusion of the state
comptroller’s probe and its findings.”
On a state visit to Germany,
Netanyahu attempted to avoid answering questions regarding the Channel 10
“It is unfortunate that in the course of a visit so
important both for defense and for diplomacy, I need to discuss false
defamations by people who are interested in damaging me politically,” said
Netanyahu. The premier added that on Sunday he intends to file a lawsuit for
libel against Channel 10.
Shimron said that the then-opposition leader
acted according to the law during all his trips.
“There was not one agora
of double- billing,” Shimron said. “A number of different organizations divided
the travel expenses for the prime minister and his wife.
“This is an
untrue report, with the goal of defaming and harming the prime minister;
otherwise, it is hard to understand why the channel is determined for the second
time to broadcast a report that is not true.”
Although State Comptroller
Micha Lindenstrauss will probe Netanyahu’s – and all other ministers’ and deputy
ministers’ – travel funding, Kadima has argued that the allegations against the
premier constitute criminal rather than ethical offenses.
mocked Kadima’s demand for an investigation, responding that “it would be better
if Kadima, which invented the concept of double-funding in the Rishon-tours
scandal, was more concerned with its own list of suspects before they begin to
worry about other parties.”
Also on Thursday, State of Israel
Bonds-Europe denied the allegations made by Channel 10’s Raviv Druker that,
unbeknown to the organization, money meant to fund Netanyahu’s travel was used
so Sara could join him.
“Israel Bonds has invited Netanyahu and his wife
to events abroad according to the acceptable protocol observed by previous
governments and ministers,” the organization said in a statement.
the Bonds spokesman explained, “we invited Netanyahu and his wife to London in
2004, and we were happy to have him participate in an event during the war in
The organization explained that Netanyahu is an especially
popular lecturer, and that Israel Bonds was prepared to pay for his wife to
travel in cases when Netanyahu received funding from the Knesset.