Dropping of 'Bibi Tours' Case Raises Hard Questions

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein closed the 'Bibi Tours' case even though many questions remain unanswered.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara. Credit: Kobi Gideon / Government Press Office

Relations between Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are known to be close. Weinstein isn’t the first attorney general to maintain close ties with the prime minister who appointed him.

But Weinstein is the first attorney general who once represented the prime minister as his private lawyer, even if that happened more than a decade ago. The attorney general also became a confidant in security decisions that have legal ramifications — a tie that strengthened the close bonds between the two men.

This close relationship compromises the public’s ability to trust Weinstein’s decision to drop the probe in the so-called Bibi Tours affair on alleged improprieties over travel expenses; Weinstein forwent a full-scale investigation of the prime minister. While the attorney general relied on the recommendations of the police and state prosecutor, he raised questions by releasing only a short document when closing the case.

For example, Weinstein notes in his decision that Netanyahu’s attorney, David Shimron, did not fully respond to all the questions the state prosecutors asked. Weinstein wrote that ultra-Orthodox businessman Dedi Graucher admitted to giving money to Netanyahu’s driver, but the two men gave conflicting testimony whose credibility is disputed.

“And external evidence collected is also to some extent contradictory,” Weinstein added. He also wrote that Netanyahu’s attorney did not provide the name of the prime minister’s travel coordinator despite the state prosecutors’ request that he do so. Another reason Weinstein gave for closing the case is also unsettling: “the passage of time.”

Around three and a half years have gone by since the Bibi Tours affair broke on Channel 10’s investigative news series “Hamakor.” Since then the probe has bounced from the state comptroller to the attorney general — ping-pong that prevented an efficient, focused probe taking place over a short period of time. This failure became a consideration for closing the case.

If it was the fate of the Bibi Tours file to be closed, Weinstein should have recused himself from the decision to close it. The decision also should have been based on the findings of a full investigation that provided answers to all the outstanding questions.

These steps would have helped strengthen the public’s ever-weakening confidence in the legal system and morality in the corridors of power.

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