Swift decision called for on ‘Bibitours’ probe

Zionist Union MKs accuse former attorney-general Weinstein covering up and sabotaging investigation of affair in which Netanyahu accused of double-billing trips abroad.

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May 24, 2016 16:15
4 minute read.
Netanyahu

Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu board a plane ahead of the UN General Assembly in New York. (photo credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)

 
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The Attorney-General’s Office will soon decide whether to investigate allegations in the State Comptroller’s Report over what has come to be known as the “Bibi Tours” affair, Knesset State Control Committee chairwoman Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) said Monday.

The report alleges problems in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conduct, relating to possible double billing and his personal use of public bonus miles during his term as finance minister from 2003 to 2005.

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State Comptroller Joseph Shapira released the report Tuesday, in which he hinted that only a full criminal probe will clear the cloud of impropriety over the affair. The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing.

Elharar pointed out that the State Comptroller Law states that the attorney- general must report to her within six months about whether or not to open a criminal investigation.

As such, she asked Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit whether there would be a criminal probe of the Bibitours affair, and his office told her that she “will soon receive an update from the assistant state attorney responsible for criminal matters.”

“I am certain that the attorney-general will do his work quickly and purposefully.

The citizens of Israel deserve to know that their prime minister is innocent of any criminal activity.



They must know that those responsible for the rule of law are doing their job without bias…and are accountable to the public,” Elharar stated.

The committee chairwoman said there are parts of the comptroller’s investigation of Bibitours that were not included in Shapira’s report, and that, if there is no criminal investigation, she will demand that those sections be made public, as well.

“This isn’t personal. This is a matter of principles and values that is important to the public. Everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, including the prime minister,” Elharar said.

Zionist Union MK Miki Rosenthal on Monday slammed former attorney- general Yehuda Weinstein and State Comptroller Joseph Shapira for what he called the “cover-up” of the affair.

Rosenthal contends that Shapiro – possibly under pressure from Netanyahu – decided to stop a probe into the affair that had been launched by his predecessor Micha Lindenstrauss in 2012.

Rosenthal accused Netanyahu’s people of continually stalling the investigation. Rosenthal was formerly a journalist who worked on the Channel 10 program Hamakor, which originally broke the Bibitours story in 2011.

He also blamed Weinstein for dragging out the investigation unnecessarily for a period of three years before deciding to close the case because some of the alleged infractions had passed the statute of limitations.

At this point, Rosenthal himself petitioned the High Court of Justice against the attorney-general’s decision.

His petition was partially accepted, because during Weinstein’s threeyear probe, Netanyahu was not asked to give his version of events to the police, Rosenthal said.

When Shapira briefed reporters Monday about his report on the affair, slated to be published on Tuesday, Rosenthal claimed that “he only told half the truth, which is worse than a lie.” According to the Zionist Union MK, Shapira claimed to have passed on new material to Weinstein after the case had been closed, and Weinstein failed to act. He added, however, that it had already been published in the media, during the original Channel 10 report on the affair, and some of the material related to alleged infractions that had already passed the statute of limitations.

Rosenthal also accused Shapira of leaving Netanyahu’s worst alleged wrongdoings, which the state comptroller himself had investigated, out of the report published on Tuesday.

“He’s passing this hot potato to the attorney-general, who will bury the whole story for good,” Rosenthal charged.

MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union), who was chairman of the State Control Committee when the previous Bibitours report came out in 2011, warned of political sabotage.

Hasson wrote a letter to Weinstein, demanding that he reveal the ways he stalled the State Comptroller.

“I know how there were efforts behind the scenes to cover up the affair, [plus] foot-dragging and sabotage of the Comptroller’s work in order to reach the statute of limitations,” he wrote. “Now the burden of proof is on you to show you did not act in the dark together with the prime minister’s people to thwart the examination. I demand you fully reveal how you behaved in relation to the affair and remove the cloud above the allegations presented to you.”

The Movement for Quality Government called for the attorney-general to speed up his examination of the materials and decide whether it warrants a criminal investigation.

“The report draws a disconcerting picture of an elected official who consistently and systematically ignores government norms and what is expected from him, even without formal regulation, while he is suspected of a conflict of interest, lacking transparency and ignoring a minister’s requirement to submit reports,” the organization lamented. “Such behavior, even if it is not criminal…certainly is not what is expected from an elected official in a senior ministerial position. Not everything that is not explicitly forbidden is permissible.”

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