C'tee okays PM portfolio changes amid war rumors

Netanyahu backtracks on request to alter investments to avoid Iran commentary; Mofaz: Move betrays PM's intent to strike Iran.

August 27, 2012 11:47
2 minute read.
PM Netanyahu at the President's Residence

PM Netanyahu at the President's Residence 370. (photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)


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A special committee has given its initial approval for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to make changes to his foreign and domestic investment portfolio, amid increased speculation in recent weeks that Israel is considering a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, a move that would certainly send shockwaves throughout the global economy.

Netanyahu quickly backtracked on his decision, saying he wanted to avoid fueling rumors about a potential strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, but not before drawing sharp rebuke by opposition leader Shaul Mofaz and Labor party head Shelly Yechimovich, both of whom accused the prime minister of improprieties.

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The committee, functioning under the auspices of the State Comptroller's Office, was formed following the Second Lebanon War when then-IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz was accused of insider trading for liquidating his investment portfolio just two hours after Hezbollah gunmen kidnapped two soldiers along the northern border. Halutz's portfolio was valued at approximately NIS 120,000. It would have suffered losses with the rest of the Tel Aviv 25 index, which dropped 8.3 percent during the week following the outbreak of hostilities.

Ministers and their immediate family members are required to place their assets in a blind trust for the duration of their term in government in order to prevent conflicts of interest.

In approving Netanyahu's request, the committee stated: "It appears that, in light of the drastic and frequent macro-economic changes, there seems to be a clear need to allow the trustee to make changes with the faith of the government," according to Globes. The committee added that it would meet again on October 10 to finalize its decision.

In response to the report, the Prime Minister's Office released a statement saying that Netanyahu has decided to avoid making changes to his investment portfolio for fear that such a move would mistakenly be interpreted as connected to an Israeli military strike on Iran.

Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz said that Netanyahu's financial move betrayed his intention to attack Iran. "The prime minister's request to adjust his investment portfolio is a strange step that betrays more than a small hint about his intentions," Mofaz said. "His actions prove that he is well aware of the massive risks to state security from a hasty, uncoordinated and unnecessary decision to attack Iran unilaterally."

Labor party leader Shelly Yechimovich tied Netanyahu's move to the Halutz scandal. "If [Netanyahu] has important information, he should share it with the public," Yechimovich said. "We have already been witness to improprieties by [former IDF] chief of staff Halutz, who sent IDF soldiers into combat, during which many of them lost their lives, but found time to call the bank and to sell his shares. The public is disgusted, and rightly so," she said.

The Jerusalem Post has learned that Netanyahu has been saying in private meetings that a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would be worthwhile, even if Israel cannot completely destroy Iran’s nuclear program.

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