State Comptroller Joseph Shapira will hold meetings this week to investigate the
various financial controversies surrounding Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
from “Bibi Tours” to the general jump in expenses to “Bedgate,” his spokesman
said on Sunday.
Shapira is reportedly asking Netanyahu’s office for
various clarifications regarding the allegations, though Shapira’s spokesman
downplayed the possibility of any immediate major developments.
Shapira’s investigation is being held up as he waits for legal advice from
Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein as to which aspects of investigating the
prime minister’s finances are within his authority.
A Justice Ministry
spokesman confirmed that the Attorney- General’s Office was considering the
issue and had not reached a final conclusion.
Last week, the
good-governance NGO Ometz sent a letter to Shapira requesting asking that he
publish his much-followed “Bibi Tours” report regarding Netanyahu’s allegedly
problematic flights funded by wealthy associates from the late 1990s to the
The letter came after the Movement for the Quality of
Government in Israel asked that Shapira investigate the “Bed-gate” affair, also
connected to Netanyahu’s supposed penchant for overdone luxurious
Next, it was made public that the prime minister’s expenses
jumped 80 percent from 2009 to 2012, following a request by the Movement for
Freedom of Information.
According to the organization, the information
was provided – after months of requests – hours after the group petitioned the
Jerusalem District Court.
Meanwhile, the Movement for the Quality of
Government on Sunday demanded a series of explanations from the Finance Ministry
regarding the controversies.
The movement said that the state should only
pay for the prime minister’s expenses in one of his two private houses, for his
home in Caesarea and not the one on Jerusalem’s Aza Street.
movement said the expense list for Caesarea was far too general and needed to be
broken down further to allow the assessment of what were private expenses and
what were public-office related expenses.
While the three stories overlap
thematically, the “Bibi Tours” affair is from a year ago and involves
allegations of unethical conduct, whereas “Bed-gate” and the jump in expenses
relate to Netanyahu’s recent flights and general expenses as prime minister and
are merely a black eye 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 El Al 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.
had reported earlier in May 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.
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
The Bibi-Tours affair has been on pause since February, when
Netanyahu and 30 other ministers and deputy ministers submitted their responses
to a draft of the State Comptroller’s Report
on the issue.
reportedly reviewed allegations of improper funding and double billing for
international trips Netanyahu and other top officials took.
Netanyahu the draft of the report at the end of December.
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
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.
April 2011, Drucker made additional allegations on his show, saying that on two
occasions before he became prime minister, Netanyahu billed different
organizations for the same flight.
According to the figures, some NIS
5.43 million was budgeted for operating and maintenance costs for Netanyahu’s
private residences in Jerusalem and in Caesarea in 2012, as opposed to NIS
3.02m. in 2009.
The state paid NIS 480,000 for food and official
hospitality in 2012, as opposed to NIS 214,000 in 2009. Cleaning and maintenance
costs in the two residences soared from NIS 553,000 in 2009 to NIS
in 2012, and the cost of buying housing utensils and furniture
jumped from NIS 61,000 in 2009 to NIS 108,000 last year.
Minister’s Office released a statement in response saying that the numbers
included “the expenses for official events held in the prime minister’s home and
working expenses for the many meetings held there.”Herb Keinon
contributed to this report.