Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu March 8, 2011.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 8, 2011. Photo by Moshe Milner / GPO
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An investigation of trips that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family have taken abroad has revealed problematic conduct on the prime minister's part during various periods in his political career. State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is doing the right thing in looking into the legal and ethical aspects of the trips, which were revealed by Raviv Drucker on Channel 10's "Hamakor" program. The junkets were taken during periods when Netanyahu was a Knesset member and finance minister.

It is absolutely appropriate to look into how it happened that the Israel Bonds organization funded such a large number of trips of family members of an elected official, as well as their stays at luxury hotels and their leisure time.

It is also fitting to look into Netanyahu's acquiescence (apparently willingly ) in accepting generous funding to cover travel expenses, accommodations, side trips and entertainment (for himself and his family ) from wealthy individuals in Europe and the United States, some of whom have business interests in Israel.

An investigation should be carried out over whether this is consistent with the law and with ethical standards required of elected officials. This issue is especially important in light of the fact that Netanyahu was not always meticulous about requesting approval by the Knesset Ethics Committee before embarking on his trips.

If it is found that Netanyahu violated ethics rules and the law, the matter will be transferred to the attorney general to deal with the case.

The embarrassing accumulated nature of the trips presents an additional serious aspect, however. The Channel 10 investigation shows a pattern of wealthy acquaintances around the world seemingly assisting in funding items falling in a gray area between private expenditures and political and public ones.

This assistance by individuals whose identities have been disclosed, but whose loyalties and political connections remain obscured, must raise the question as to whom Netanyahu is more indebted, to them or to the Israeli public.

It appears that the prime minister and his family are big fans of a lifestyle of the type led by isolated rulers of oil emirates.

It is true that Netanyahu is not alone. The trips he tried to conceal are in addition to a broader dubious list that includes the luxury hotel suite Defense Minister Ehud Barak rented for the Paris Air Show and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's travels, but it seems Netanyahu went too far.

It is fair to expect that Israeli prime ministers would conduct themselves with a semblance of modesty. And he should absolutely be expected not to owe a thing to anyone.