Number of Netanyahu Scandals Prods AG Into Action

Raw material from State Comptroller's report into Netanyahu expenses controversies persuades attorney general that more serious investigation may be called for.

Gidi Weitz
Gidi Weitz
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, February 8, 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, February 8, 2015. Credit: Alex Kolomoisky
Gidi Weitz
Gidi Weitz

If, at the start of the week, the attitude in the attorney general’s office was that the comptroller’s report on the expenses of the Netanyahu household and associated controversies did not justify the taking of legal measures, by Thursday they had understood that it might not be possible to avoid diving into the depths of the affairs in the official residence.

On its own, each episode may appear small and not worth the establishment of a special investigation team, but when they’re viewed together, even Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein can discern the traces of a system.

Weinstein was the one who, until Wednesday, insisted that Meni Naftali, the former head of the prime minister’s household, should not receive immunity in return for his testimony. “What if he confesses to murder or robbery?” the attorney general asked his associates.

But on Thursday, when it occurred to the AG that maybe he was travelling back in time to the days when, as the Netanyahu couple’s attorney, he was dealing with similar suspicions – such the moving and disappearing presents affairs – he instructed the police to get Naftali’s testimony immediately by promising him that nothing he says during questioning will be used against him.

What persuaded the AG was, among other things, the raw material from the state comptroller’s office, which offered tantalizing glimpses of other possible suspicions, similar to those in which the couple was involved in the past. In order to clarify whether those leads combine into a single plot, a legal examination or police investigation is necessary.

Today, it is entirely clear that tossing the hot potato from the comptroller to the AG and back again and the slow pace at which suspicions against the couple have been investigated have prevented a deep and serious investigation – which could have happened months ago.

If Meni Naftali, who has been given partial immunity, provides another two or three meaty stories that confirm the suspicion that there is a system at play – charging private expenses to the public purse – Weinstein will have no option but to open an inquiry.

Will it go as high as the prime minister and his wife? Corruption affairs over the past decade taught us that it is difficult to predict the final act when the first has barely begun. But it was clear on Thursday to anyone who saw Weinstein that something had changed.

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