Background: Who will decide whether Netanyahu behaved improperly?

According to the law, if a public servant receives a gift the gift will become the property of the state.

binyamin netanyahu 88 29 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
binyamin netanyahu 88 29
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
There are two possible avenues of investigation into the funding that Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, received to finance the Likud leader's speaking tour of London in August 2006. One possibility is a criminal investigation to examine whether Netanyahu violated the 1979 Civil Service Law (Gifts). According to the law, "If a public servant receives a gift in his capacity as a public servant, whether in Israel or abroad, whether given to him or to his wife who lives with him or his children whom he supports, and the public servant does not refuse it or immediately return it, the gift will become the property of the state. If the gift is not a commodity, the public servant must return to the state its value in money. Anyone who breaks the law is liable to be fined three times the value of the gift." The only exceptions are gifts from friends, gifts of little value or gifts given as rewards for good work, either from public money or from a private organization if the award is granted in public. MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) has filed a criminal complaint against Netanyahu with Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on allegations that he broke the gifts law. Mazuz's spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that "Hasson will receive an answer in the customary way." The second avenue of investigation is for the Knesset Ethics Committee to determine whether Netanyahu broke the internal code of ethical conduct that applies to all MKs. The committee is due to meet next week to consider a complaint lodged by Ma'ayan Hamoda'i, chairman of the Labor Party Young Guard, regarding the speaking trip. According to the ethics code, every MK must apply for permission to the Ethics Committee to travel abroad, unless the trip is funded by the Knesset or the government. According to the Knesset Spokesman's Office, Netanyahu did not apply for permission for the London trip. Although the Knesset paid for the Likud MK's flight, it did not pay for his wife's ticket or the couple's stay in London. Before that trip, the Ethics Committee had approved requests for Netanyahu's wife to travel with him - at the expense of those who invited the couple, not the expense of the Knesset. Sara Netanyahu's trips were approved because she was the wife of a former prime minister. Thus, according to a Knesset source, it is likely that had the Netanyahus asked for permission to travel to London for the speaking tour, their request would have been granted. As an aside, it should be added that in January 2007, unconnected to the London trip, the Knesset Ethics Committee decided that it would no longer grant permission to Sara Netanyahu to accompany her husband at the expense of those who invited him. Since then, she is obliged to pay out of her own pocket for such trips. The above are the institutional procedures for examining whether Netanyahu and his wife broke the law or were guilty of violating the Knesset's ethical standards. However, in a commentary published on Sunday by Yediot Aharonot, Nahum Barnea wrote that Netanyahu's excessive spending should be held up to the court of public opinion. He wrote that Netanyahu was a hedonist, as were the leaders of the other two major parties, Labor's Ehud Barak and Kadima's Ehud Olmert. It was up to the public to decide whether it wanted such people to be their leaders, Barnea wrote.