Ben Zygier Affair a Matter for the Knesset, Israel's State Comptroller Says

Responding to a letter by a Labor MK, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira says he will defer to lawmakers and government officials before launching an investigation into the handling of the Prisoner X controversy.

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Addressing a member of Knesset's request to examine the conduct of authorities in the Ben Zygier affair, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira said Monday morning at a conference at the Open University in Ra’anana that he intends to wait to see how the Knesset, government and attorney general respond before launching an investigation.

On Sunday, Shapira received a letter from MK Nachman Shai (Labor) requesting a "clear, comprehensive inquiry" into the Prisoner X affair, as Ben Zygier's case is known.

“It may be necessary to wait another day or two to see how the institutions in charge act," Shapira said, noting that there has been discussion of establishing various commissions to look into the matter further. "I think that before the state comptroller decides, it’s best to see how the official institutions intend to handle this complex matter.”

Shapira pointed out that current members of Knesset are submitting parliamentary questions more so than in the previous Knesset, which he sees as a "clear sign it would be best for a government to convene as soon as possible" so the State Control Committee can submit parliamentary questions, as stipulated by law, on such important issues, rather than individual MKs.

“The State Control Committee is the body that is supposed to be dealing with this," Shapira said. "I’m not criticizing this MK or any other. I’m willing to deal with the request submitted by MK Shai."

Shapira said he believes MK Shai turned to him because the state comptroller has done comprehensive and thorough work on sensitive issues in the past and because of the "public’s confidence in the institution.”

Shapira also discussed whether the position of foreign minister will be reserved for Avigdor Lieberman until the conclusion of his trial, which began yesterday, in which the former foreign minister stands accused of fraud and breach of trust.

“The moment it becomes a criminal matter and the attorney general is handling it, the comptroller is barred from dealing with it," Shapira said. "The question is more political in nature, and I will certainly not go into it.”

As for the question submitted by MK Erel Margalit (Labor) about a two-year budget, Shapira said, “The idea of a two-year budget is contentious. There is a case to be made either way, and it’s been debated in the past. Since it has come up again, we had a meeting of the economic division and I am in fact looking into the issue.”

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira, left, addressing the Knesset.Credit: Michal Fattal
Ben Zygier's family.Credit: Handout
Newly appointed State Comptroller Joseph Shapira.Credit: Shiran Granot

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