Bennett's Salary as Netanyahu's Bureau Chief Was Nixed by Sara Netanyahu

Naftali Bennett told an investigator in 2011 that when he worked for the prime minister when he lead of the opposition, his nominal fee was withdrawn under pressure from Netanyahu's wife.

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Netanyahu and Bennett in the Knesset. February 12, 2014.
Netanyahu and Bennett in the Knesset. February 12, 2014.Credit: Emil Salman
Gidi Weitz
Gidi Weitz

An investigator for the State Comptroller's Office who in 2011 sought testimony from Naftali Bennett regarding alleged improprieties in the funding of trips taken by Benjamin Netanyahu failed to shed light on the affair, but the collected information purportedly reflecting the sour relations that Bennett had with Netanyahu's wife, Sara.

In September 2011, retired police commander Nahum Levy paid a visit to Bennett's Ra'anana home. At the time, Levy was investigating the so-called Bibi-Tours affair on behalf of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss. The investigation ultimately resulted in a report issued this week by Lindenstrauss' successor, Joseph Shapira. Levy was seeking testimony from Bennett because he was Netanyahu's bureau chief when the prime minister was leader of the opposition in the Knesset.

According to a memorandum that Levy wrote and that was later provided to members of the comptroller's staff dealing with the Bibi-Tours case, Bennett was unable to shed light on the trips that Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, took, but he did provide details of the incident involving Sara Netanyahu.  Bennett, the current education minister and head of the Habayit Hayehudi party, worked for Netanyahu as a volunteer, but the two agreed that Bennett would receive a nominal salary of 1,000 to 2,000 shekels per month ($260 to $520 at current exchange rates). Bennett told Levy that he received one monthly payment but "when Sara Netanyahu became aware of the matter, he (Bennett) was asked to return the check." Bennett is said to have complied.

Another member Netanyahu's bureau staff at the time, Ayelet Shaked, who is now justice minister, was also asked to provide testimony to the comptroller's office and she too reportedly failed to recall anything unusual relating to Netanyahu's travels. The impression at State Comptroller Lindenstrauss' office was that Bennett and Shaked provided "very cautious versions" of events, a source told Haaretz. The source added that the reason the two were questioned was due to an understanding that they were aware of some of the details of Netanyahu's travels.

Both Bennett and Shaked had fractious relations with Netanyahu, and particularly with his wife. The effects of the friction persist to this day, when Bennett and Shaked are members of Netanyahu's cabinet. In the past, Bennett facetiously said that working with Sara Netanyahu was like going through a course on combatting terrorism, but he later retracted the remarks and publicly apologized for what he had said. Bennett and Sara Netanyahu refused to provide further comment.

A key witness in the Bibi-Tours case told Haaretz on Tuesday that in the course of the police investigation in the case about two years ago, he had the sense that the police investigators were busy with marginal matters, "with marginal issues and not with the method." Another individual told Haaretz that when he made similar comments to the late commander of the police fraud division, Efraim Bracha, the commander replied that that was the mandate that he had received and what he had been asked to investigate.

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