State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said yesterday he will launch an investigation into reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled overseas on the dime of private businessmen.
The comptroller will also probe a report that said Netanyahu obtained campaign donations illegally.
In a rare, emotional interview on Channel 2 TV yesterday, Sara Netanyahu called the accusations about the couple’s extravagance “vicious gossip.” She said the family’s expenses have not cost the Israeli taxpayer a single shekel and accused the media of singling her family out while every other politician does the same.
Lindenstrauss decided to probe Netanyahu’s trips following his staff’s preliminary inquiries into a Channel 10 report earlier this week, which claimed Netanyahu accepted funding from foreign businessmen for himself and his family while in office.
The comptroller’s staff will begin its investigation next week, summoning various officials associated with Netanyahu to testify, possibly including Netanyahu and his wife.
A second report claimed that in 2005 Netanyahu had received private campaign donations without reporting all of them to the State Comptroller, as required by law.
At the end of a special meeting of the State Comptrollers’ Office staff yesterday, Lindenstrauss said his team would inspect Netanyahu’s adherence to regulations concerning campaign donations, as well as claims concerning privately sponsored travel and dining.
The probe will be relatively limited in scope, however, because some of those allegedly involved in the affair, including officials and foreign citizens, do not fall under the comptroller’s jurisdiction.
The inspection is set to focus on the main claims revealed in the Channel 10 reports, with Lindenstrauss to rule whether or not to pursue further avenues of investigation.
Netanyahu responded for the first time to the Channel 10 allegations in an interview broadcast on YouTube and Channel 2 Wednesday, saying that the reports were “an orchestrated smear campaign.”
Lindenstrauss intends to ask the State Control Committee to invest his investigator Yuval Hayo with the authority of an inquiry committee, to enable him to subpoena witnesses and material.
Sara Netanyahu speaks out
In her interview on Channel 2 yesterday, Sara Netanyahu pleaded that she and her husband had not broken the law.
“There’s a deliberate attempt to harm the prime minister through me,” she said. “It’s the easiest thing to do, [to target] us, as women.”
She said she felt every Israeli politician should be investigated over what she called “standard” funding procedures.
“There’s earthquakes around us and what are we dealing with? Garbage. What lies. Why, why this evil? How can you say about a psychologist who works with children − how can you say such bad things about such a person? I know who I am. Where’s the hedonism? I come from work, go to console mourners in the evening. Everything has been taken out of context and blown up,” she said.
She said she decided to respond publicly to the reports because she didn’t “have more strength for another attack.”
“Again I am placed as a target before the public, again the prime minister is targeted through me,” Netanyahu said, calling the Channel 10 report “vicious gossip, of the kind that has turned into a regular ritual of hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness, and enough. Enough already. It needs to stop!”
Sara Netanyahu claimed there was no ethical problem with the couple’s travels, calling the reports of special treatment disingenuous.
“We traveled according to the standards of the former prime minister,” she said, referring to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The prime minister’s wife blasted Channel 10 reporter Raviv Drucker, who had broken the story. While not mentioning Drucker by name, she said a “certain journalist” calls every secretary who leaves the Prime Minister’s Office and asks for negative details about the Netanyahu family.
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