Netanyahu in the clear for luxurious London trip

But Ethics C'tee reprimands opposition leader over wife's presence on trip, saying her expenses should have been shouldered privately.

bibi sarah netanyahu 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
bibi sarah netanyahu 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The Knesset Ethics Committee reprimanded Opposition Leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu during a closed-door meeting Tuesday at which they discussed the Likud chairman's summer 2006 trip to London. Following a series of exposés that claimed ethical irregularities in funding for the trip, made during the height of the Second Lebanon War, the young guard of the Labor Party had submitted a complaint against Netanyahu to the committee. The complaint stated that Netanyahu had traveled to London as a representative of the Knesset for the purpose in engaging in pro-Israel advocacy, and that during the trip Netanyahu and his wife Sara had stayed in an expensive hotel and run up large bills, some of which, read the complaint, were bankrolled by the Israeli government. It also argued that Netanyahu had received theater tickets, meals and even hairstyling, all in violation of rule 14 of the Knesset ethics standards which prohibit receiving payment for overseas appearances. In addition, the complainants - represented by Ma'ayan Amoda'i - asked the Knesset committee to look into who had paid Sara Netanyahu's airfare, and whether or not proper permission had been requested from the ethics committee prior to the trip. After receiving detailed explanations from Netanyahu regarding the allegations against him, the committee ruled that they believed Netanyahu that he himself had provided the funds for his personal expenses. Netanyahu had argued that regarding receiving permission prior to his trip, he had assumed that his office had filed the necessary request for ethics committee approval. Only afterwards, he said, had he realized that it had submitted requests to the Knesset foreign relations department and not to the ethics committee. Although the committee ruled that Netanyahu's behavior in this respect was merely an "administrative error", they took pains to remind MKs that all trips overseas receiving any external funding require the committee's approval. The committee did see fit however to reprimand Netanyahu regarding his wife's presence on the trip, adding that they did not accept Netanyahu's explanation that the ethics committee had already given his wife implied permission to join him on journeys in his capacity as a former prime minister. The members of the committee argued that in every instance, expenses incurred by the spouse of an MK on an overseas visit must be shouldered privately by the legislator and not by the Knesset or any external source.