(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Both opposition and coalition forces claimed victory Tuesday when State
Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss announced that he would expand his probe into
the socalled “Bibi-Tours” scandal to include all overseas travel by prime
ministers, ministers and deputy ministers since 2006.
announced his decision during a heated session of the Knesset’s State Control
Committee, initially scheduled to include a revote on last Wednesday’s
controversial decision to expand authority granted to the State Comptroller’s
Office. Coalition MKs, in addition to crying foul on the vote itself, complained
that the state comptroller’s mandate to probe Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu’s overseas travels was unfair.
Peres, Likud MKs push for wider probe of all politicians
Knesset legal adviser disqualifies vote on ‘Bibi-tours'
Committee members from the Likud
claimed that committee chairman Yoel Hasson (Kadima) had planned last week’s
vote in such a way as to prevent coalition MKs from participating. Although
Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Inon reiterated during Tuesday’s meeting that he had
found no flaw in the vote, he emphasized that more stringent rules should be
determined for the way MKs were informed of last-minute hearings.
MK Ophir Akunis (Likud) complained during the meeting that last week, Likud MKs
had discovered that the vote had taken place from reports on the evening
Calls for Lindenstrauss to probe Netanyahu’s travels emerged almost
two weeks ago, when Channel 10’s investigative program Makor
Netanyahu had utilized a carefully crafted network of wealthy associates to
finance private flights, luxury hotel suites, first-class restaurants, and trips
abroad for himself and his family.
But Likud ministers and MKs came to
their chairman’s defense, arguing that many politicians had traveled overseas,
enjoying luxurious conditions funded by private donors and organizations. In the
past week, a number of Likud officials have suggested that Lindenstrauss’s
probe, officially initiated last Thursday, be expanded to include all MKs and
ministers throughout the past decade.
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Lindenstrauss said that he
preferred, instead, to engage in an in-depth examination of top politicians’
“The probe will look at all of the aspects related to the
subject, including the processes surrounding requests and approval of trips for
ministers and deputy ministers, and the question of funding provided by private
interests,” Lindenstrauss told MKs during the afternoon committee
Lindenstrauss did, however, emphasize that he would look at the
connection between Netanyahu’s overseas travels and the Likud primaries. The
comptroller said it would take months of investigation before any conclusions
were reached, and added that he would seek the cooperation of the Attorney-
General’s Office in probing the activities of overseas donors.
Kadima and Likud pointed to Lindenstrauss’s decision as a victory for their
“The Likud’s attempt to disrupt the state comptroller’s
intents to examine the ethical and criminal questions surrounding Netanyahu’s
hedonistic travels failed,” trumpeted acting Kadima Faction Chairman Yohanan
Likud MKs, including Yariv Levin, who proposed the compromise
that was eventually accepted by Lindenstrauss, also claimed victory in
successfully expanding the comptroller’s mandate.
activities of one single person would be unjust for that person, and also does
not satisfy the substantive purpose of oversight,” explained Levin.
on Tuesday, opposition leader Tzipi Livni addressed the “Bibi-Tours” allegations
for the first time.
“Particularly when we face [security threats], we
cannot allow ourselves a situation in which the public stops believing in
politicians,” Livni said during a conference entitled “The Israeli Economy Under
the Shadow of Security Threats.”
The conference was hosted by Tel Aviv
University’s Yuval Ne’eman Workshop for Science, Technology and Security, headed
by Prof. Yitzhak Ben-Israel.
Livni stressed in her speech that
politicians “are those who will determine the future of our children and our
“The expression that everybody is corrupt is incorrect,
and the time has come for the public to judge its elected representatives,” she
said. “This is part of the rehabilitation process that we need to go through,
most of all for ourselves.”
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