Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has retracted his request to the State Comptrollers Office to let him make changes to his private investment portfolio, perhaps concerned about the public's reaction amid talk of possible plans to attack Iran over its nuclear program.

His original request, to amend instructions put into place when he took office in April 2009, was approved in principle on August 15 by a committee headed by retired Judge Ezra Kama. But the committee conditioned the decision on the cabinet voting to change existing directives that would allow a minister to amend his or her investment decisions mid-term.

"It seems that with the drastic changes that have occurred in the global economy, as well as the frequent and significant changes in investment in Israel, there is a need to enable additional instructions to be given to the trustee of the blind trust in a way that the cabinet will vote for," Kama's panel ruled.

With that done, the panel was to meet again on October 10 to approve the changes Netanyahu sought.

Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said Netanyahu had been mulling changes to his Israeli and overseas investment holdings for over a year.

But soon after the committee announced its decision, Netanyahu's office asked the panel to rescind it. A cabinet discussion on the matter would have been made public, thereby opening the prime minister up to criticism in much the same way that Dan Halutz, chief of staff during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, was severely criticized for selling securities investments mere hours before the outbreak of the conflict.

Under rules designed to prevent a conflict of interest between policy-making and personal financial holdings, the prime minster, ministers and deputy ministers must transfer their financial assets to a trustee - who manages them in a blind trust - within 60 days of taking office.

The Prime Minister's Office said the cabinet in the next government would vote on an amendment to the rules for all serving ministers and deputy ministers; this amendment would allow them to adjust their investment strategies mid-term.