PM Asked Official to Leave Meeting Over Ties to Critical Journalist

Legal adviser to Comptroller left hearing into alleged criminal wrongdoing by Netanyahu after prime minister claimed his ties to Raviv Druker put him in conflict of interests.

Israeli journalist Raviv Druker (L) / Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R)
Bloomberg / Eyal Toueg

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that the legal adviser of the State Comptroller’s Office leave a hearing called to allow the prime minister to respond to criminal allegations against him in the “Bibi Tours” case. Netanyahu cited the lawyer’s friendship with the investigative reporter who broke the case.

The legal adviser, Prof. Yoram Rabin, left as requested. State Comptroller Joseph Shapira did not intervene.

The hearing, which took place last Friday, was called to allow Netanyahu to respond to the comptroller’s draft report on the so-called Bibi Tours affair, which involves allegations that businessmen and nonprofit organizations paid for Netanyahu’s trips abroad while he was serving as finance minister in 2003 to 2005.

When Netanyahu demanded that he leave, Rabin responded that he saw no reason to do so, as his friendship with Raviv Drucker did not create a conflict of interests. Nevertheless, he agreed to leave for appearances’ sake.

Shapira was appointed state comptroller with the support of Netanyahu and his Likud party. Netanyahu’s personal attorney, David Shimron, also attended the meeting, despite being the person who advised Netanyahu to support Shapira’s candidacy.

The comptroller’s office confirmed that Netanyahu objected to Rabin’s presence because of his friendship with Drucker, and also that Rabin said he saw no reason to leave, but would do so for appearances’ sake. Rabin then walked out without waiting for the comments of anyone else in the room, the statement added.

“In this situation, there was no reason to alter the legal advisor’s decision,” the statement continued. It said Shapira’s nonintervention was intended “to facilitate the proper conduct of the hearing” and “avoid attempts to delay or prevent the hearing.”

Less than two weeks ago, Drucker’s television station, Israel Channel 10, reported that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein is looking into whether Netanyahu’s contacts with businessmen during the trips in question could constitute a crime.