State comptroller reportedly probing Netanyahu

Silvan Shalom criticizes Likud leader, vows to pass referendum bill.

bibi bw 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
bibi bw 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The office of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is investigating Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu for alleged irregularities in reporting his personal financial situation, Channel 10 reported Wednesday night. The channel caught an employee in Lindenstrauss's office reporting to him about his investigation of Netanyahu. The employee said Netanyahu failed to issue a legally required report about his assets when he left the Finance Ministry in August 2005 and that when he did submit the report, key financial information was missing. The report said the State Comptroller's Office suspected Netanyahu of illegally using money that had been placed in a blind trust. "We have a problem with Bibi," the employee told Lindenstrauss. "We can't let him get away with this." Netanyahu's spokesman responded that he was indeed late with his financial statement but submitted everything completely and transparently months later. The spokesman said his office was not aware of a problem with the report and had not been contacted by the Comptroller's Office. He added that the blind trust was handled according to the comptroller's regulations, without exception. Likud MK Silvan Shalom refrained from mentioning the Channel 10 report or criticizing Netanyahu harshly in a speech at a pre-Rosh Hashana toast in Ramat Gan. Shalom, who two months ago accused Netanyahu of running the Likud the way Syrian dictator Bashar Assad ran his Ba'ath party, told The Jerusalem Post that he intentionally toned down his rhetoric at the event. Shalom said the Likud needed to unify its ranks in order to return to power. He challenged Netanyahu to reach out to him, saying that uniting the party was the responsibility of its leader. But Shalom did issue mild criticism of Netanyahu's tenure as opposition leader. He said he had wanted to organize mass rallies calling for the government's resignation after the Second Lebanon War, but was turned down by Netanyahu. "What are we doing to end the government's tenure?" Shalom said. "An opposition has to work. We cannot wait for miracles. We have to make miracles happen." Shalom said a million voters left the Likud in the last election and that most had not returned since. More had to be done to attract them, he said. Hundreds of Likud activists attended the toast, but while past Shalom events were attended by most of the Likud faction, the only MKs who came Wednesday were Reuven Rivlin, Michael Eitan and Haim Katz. The former foreign minister saved his harshest criticism for the Kadima-led government. He accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of conducting a diplomatic process with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in order to survive politically. Shalom said a government with an approval rating of 5 percent had no right to negotiate the future borders of the country. He said that when the Knesset reconvened, he would propose a bill instituting referenda that he believed would attract support from Shas, Israel Beiteinu and Kadima MKs. Shalom called upon Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Tzahi Hanegbi and other Kadima MKs to return to the Likud and to protest the reopening of Orient House as a Palestinian Authority office in Jerusalem. Shalom mocked the cabinet's decision on Wednesday to stop the supply of cigarettes to the Gaza Strip. Ironically, while Shalom was speaking, many Likud activists were breaking the law by smoking in the hall. The management of Recital Hall did not enforce antismoking laws at the event.