State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss announced Thursday that he would initiate
a probe into allegations of campaign finance violations and improper funding of
international trips lodged against Prime Minister Binyamin
Lindenstrauss decided to launch the investigation following a
meeting with State Comptroller’s Office heads Thursday afternoon, where they
deliberated a series of complaints filed against Netanyahu by anti-corruption
watchdog groups and opposition politicians.
Likud MKs: 'Bibi is honest; Hasson is underhanded'
PM sues Channel 10, Maariv over ‘Bibi-tours’ reports
The complaints about what has
been dubbed “Bibi-Tours” began surfacing after the airing of a report on Channel
10’s investigative news program Hamakor, which cast a shadow on multiple flights
taken by Netanyahu and his family in the late 1990s and early 2000 that were
allegedly paid for by wealthy Netanyahu backers.
The report suggested
that there had been ethical lapses in Netanyahu’s behavior when donors and
sponsors agreed to fly his aides and family on first-class flights, and treated
them to luxury hotels, fancy cars, personal assistants, entertainment and meals
at five-star restaurants.
Although the prime minister and his wife may
legally fly using state funds, the report argued that Netanyahu’s external relationships – and perks received during these trips – were ethically
A second report that aired on Channel 10 on Sunday
suggested that Netanyahu allegedly violated campaign funding laws by submitting
only partial reports of donations he received. Channel 10 reporter Raviv Druker
presented viewers with a list of donors to Netanyahu’s 2005 Likud primary
elections campaign, suggesting that in some cases the donations exceeded the
limits imposed by campaign financing laws.
“The investigative report
raises serious suspicions that the prime minister allegedly received perks at
great expense, and that the prime minister allegedly violated party funding
laws,” wrote State Control Committee chairman MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) to
In his announcement on Thursday, Lindenstrauss clarified
that initially he would look only into the allegations of campaign finance
wrongdoing and into those privately funded flights that potentially violated
ministerial conflict-of-interest regulations.
He said he would consider
investigating the other issues, depending on developments. If Lindenstrauss
concludes that the evidence points to criminal violations, he is likely to turn
the file over to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein.
In an interview to
Channel 2/YouTube on Wednesday, Netanyahu claimed the reports were part of a
campaign being orchestrated against him. He said the reports had been distorted
and were tainted by “hypocrisy,” and that he was being judged by different
standards than those used for other prime ministers, as well as presidents,
ministers and Knesset members.
The worst thing about the reports, he
said, was that in order to harm him, certain journalists attacked his
“I want to tell all those journalists – or part of them who are
working against me – this won’t help you.
This is malicious; it is
hypocritical – but I will remain here for many more years. I won’t change my
positions, and I will continue to lead the country,” he said.
also filed libel lawsuits against Channel 10 and Ma’ariv, accusing them of
besmirching his reputation in news reports.
On Thursday evening it was
Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, who spoke to the public. In a rare interview to Channel
2 news, she defended her husband’s actions and attacked portions of the media
for what she called their “ritual attacks” against her.
“I decided to
speak out because I feel I don’t have the strength for another attack,” she
said. “Once again I am facing the public as a target.
Again the prime
minister is being attacked through me. It is the continuation of the attacks I
suffered in my husband’s former term as prime minister and frankly I’m tired of
it. These evil rumors have become something of a ritual of sanctimony and
hypocrisy. Enough already.”
Sara Netanyahu insisted that all the couple’s
flights had been financed in accordance with regulations and in a standard
becoming a former head of government.
“You must understand, my husband is
the most sought-after speaker in the world when it comes to talking on behalf of
Israel.... A short investigation revealed that thousands of public officials had
taken trips in recent years. Nobody pays for their [own] flights.”
Netanyahu also rejected criticism that the couple was fond of a luxurious
lifestyle and traveled extravagantly.
The Likud responded to
Lindenstrauss’s announcement by suggesting that he look into the financing of
flights of all MKs, and not just of Netanyahu.
“In the last decade there
have been thousands of flights by MKs, ministers and both serving and former
prime ministers, at the expense of various bodies. It is worthy of the state
comptroller to inspect everyone’s flights,” the party said in a
Suggestions in a similar vein were made by Nachi Eyal,
director-general of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, who cited similarly
high-priced trips taken by other politicians, including President Shimon Peres,
Kadima’s Dalia Itzik and Haim Ramon, and Labor’s Binyamin Ben-
Eyal claimed that the state comptroller had treated Peres with
kid gloves after he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in allegedly
illegal donations for his 2005 Labor primary campaign.
received a favorable nod from Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Barak, a former prime
minister, said that Netanyahu’s behavior was no different from that of other
prime ministers or opposition heads, who also traveled on private
Barak said the behavior was reasonable and that if people wanted to
change it, this needed to be agreed upon in the Knesset’s Ethics Committee.
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