Peres, Likud MKs push for wider probe of all politicians

Political battle over so-called “Bibi-Tours” scandal heats-up; Netanyahu lashes out against Hasson, who is seen as main force pushing probe in Knesset.

Netanyahu in Knesset alone 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu in Knesset alone 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The political battle over the so-called “Bibi-Tours” scandal heated-up further Sunday, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu receiving support from President Shimon Peres, Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin and Likud MKs, continuing to push for a wider probe of all politicians’ travel funding.
During a meeting of Likud ministers, Netanyahu lashed out against State Control Committee Chairman Yoel Hasson, who is seen as the main force pushing the probe in the Knesset.
“It is strange that the person who serves as a committee chair, and in the past Knesset, has spent nearly a half-year overseas should fear a wider probe of all of the MKs,” quipped Netanyahu during a Sunday morning meeting.
Likud MKs and ministers alike have called for the State Control Committee to expand State Controller Micha Lindenstrauss’s probe of Netanyahu’s overseas travels to include MKs, former prime ministers, ministers and even presidents.
Hasson quickly attempted to refute Netanyahu’s allegations, publishing the Ethics Committee report on his overseas travels, and claiming that he has spent 66 days – and not a halfyear – overseas in the two years since the current Knesset was convened.
“This testifies more than anything to the prime minister’s condition in which he is incapable of differentiating between legal and criminal, and between what he did and what others did,” said Hasson.
Peres spoke out against such attacks against Netanyahu Sunday, warning that “it must be ensured that the criticism directed against the prime minister not be turned into character assassination – and certainly not against his wife and children.”
The president added that the entire practice of senior politicians’ travels must be better regulated.
“There must be a single standard required of all leaders,” Peres said.
Begin, a minister with a reputation for personal ethics, also argued that the probe must be more general, rather than simply examining Netanyahu.
“I also live in a large apartment today. I don’t wear khaki, and sometimes I even travel overseas at the expense of the Israel Bonds and sleep in hotels,” he said. “What is practiced today is not what was practiced 30 years ago – and if this is ‘Knesset-Tours,’ then everybody should be examined.”
Begin’s call was reinforced by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who is currently on a state visit to New Zealand.
Rivlin said Hasson must listen to the majority of MKs in his committee, and allow a vote on expanding Lindenstrauss’s mandate to include all MKs and ministers. Rivlin spoke Sunday with MK Yitzhak Vaknin regarding the furor surrounding the State Control Committee’s anticipated Tuesday meeting, and requested that Vaknin represent Rivlin’s opinion during the meeting.
“The minority cannot force its opinion on the majority,” said Rivilin. “Just as the Speaker of the Knesset is obligated to convene the Knesset for a debate according to a majority request – and even less than that – the committee chairman must do so, too. The chairman is not allowed to employ personal considerations, but is bound by the Knesset regulations.”