Netanyahu's Tangled Webs: From 'Bibi-Tours' to Bar-On

A rundown of cases involving the prime minister and his wife over the last 20 years, some closed due to lack of evidence, others pending.

Sharon Pulwer
Sharon Pulwer
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Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu, during a trip to Japan in 2014.
The Netanyahus, in 2014. Several of the cases against them have been closed due to lack of evidence.Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO
Sharon Pulwer
Sharon Pulwer

The Bar-On-Hebron affair (1997): It was suspected that as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu sought to have attorney Roni Bar-On appointed as attorney general, as part of a conspiracy to bring about a plea bargain in the case of Arye Dery when the latter was on trial for bribery. It was thought that Bar-On’s appointment might be a political "gift" to Dery’s party, Shas, and in return Shas would support Netanyahu’s plan for redeployment in Hebron. Netanyahu was questioned under warning – i.e., as someone who might be charged with criminal offenses. The police initially recommended that the premier be charged with fraud and breach of trust, but then-Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein closed the case for lack of evidence.

The Amedi affair (1999): A police investigation was launched due to suspicions that Netanyahu and his wife Sara had arranged for the state to pay for work done on their private residence by contractor Avner Amedi, before and during the time Netanyahu served as prime minister. Then-State Prosecutor Edna Arbel determined that Sara Netanyahu should be indicted for fraud and Netanyahu for fraud and breach of trust. Then-Attorney General Rubinstein closed the case for lack of sufficient evidence.

The "gifts" affair (1999): Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu were thought to have taken personal possession of gifts that Netanyahu received from world leaders when serving as prime minister, although such items are supposed to be the property of the state. The case was closed for lack of evidence.

The "Bibi-Tours" affair: It is suspected that while Netanyahu was finance minister, from 2003 to 2005 and during his term as Knesset opposition leader, from 2005 to 2009, his travel expenses and those of his wife and sons were billed both to the state and to other entities. Then-State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss believed he had enough evidence to launch an investigation for criminal wrongdoing. However, in 2014, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided to close the probe for lack of evidence of such acts. The matter is now before the current state comptroller, Joseph Shapira, who has gathered additional evidence. Meanwhile, an investigation into the affair is being conducted under the supervision of the Jerusalem prosecutor’s office and the current attorney general, Avichai Mendelblit.

The "residences" affair: Here too, suspicions have been raised that the Netanyahus charged the public for private expenses incurred at their residences. A number of incidents have been publicized, some in the 2015 state comptroller’s report, among them one allegedly involving employment of an electrician who is a Likud activist, and another the possible transfer of lawn furniture from the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem to the couple’s Caesarea home. The investigation has now been completed and appears to indicate a possible evidentiary basis for indicting Sara Netanyahu.

Ties to French businessman Arnaud Mimran: Mimran, a suspect in a major fraud investigation in France, told a French court two weeks ago that he paid for Netanyahu’s election campaign to the tune of 1 million euros, which is illegal according to Israeli law. No requests for information from the French authorities have apparently been made by the Justice Ministry thus far. The ministry has declined to comment.

Connections to businessman Shaul Elovitch: According to a Haaretz investigative report, Netanyahu, who currently serves as communications minister, has personal ties with Elovitch, a major shareholder in Bezeq, which also owns the news website Walla. The report revealed evidence that the news site was apparently asked to publish positive items about Sara Netanyahu, as per the instructions of the Prime Minister’s Office. The report also found that the website was instructed not to publicize items critical of the prime minister. At the same time, however, as communications minister, Netanyahu is supposed to make regulatory decisions involving Bezeq. After publication of the report, the attorney general issued an opinion that Netanyahu is to be barred from dealing with Elovitch’s affairs due to an ostensible conflict of interest.

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