Inquiry into allegations Netanyahu took perks


ISRAEL’S STATE comptroller has announced he will investigate allegations prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu travelled abroad at the expense of private businessmen.

What has been dubbed the “Bibi-Tours” affair surfaced after the airing of a report on Israel’s Channel 10 television last week alleging Mr Netanyahu and his family took flights abroad in the late 1990s and early 2000 that were paid for by wealthy backers.

State comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss will also investigate allegations that in 2005, Mr Netanyahu failed to report private campaign donations to the state comptroller, as is legally required.

The television reported wealthy donors, mainly American Jews, paid for first-class flights, luxury hotels, fancy cars and meals at top-class restaurants for Mr Netanyahu, his family and aides.

Mr Netanyahu served his first term as Israeli prime minister between June 1996-July 1999. He temporarily retired from politics after losing the contest for prime minister to Labour’s Ehud Barak.

The perks in question came when he was a private citizen but were ethically questionable and raised issues of conflict of interest.

Responding to the allegations, Mr Netanyahu said the claims were “baseless slander” and part of an ongoing media witch hunt by journalists who wanted to topple the government.

“I want to tell all those journalists who are working against me – this won’t help you,” he said. “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.”

Mr Netanyahu also filed libel lawsuits against Channel 10 and an Israeli newspaper, accusing them of besmirching his reputation.

In a rare media appearance , Mr Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, also gave a television interview on Thursday, defending her husband and slamming what she termed “the ritual attacks ” against her in the media.