In the Service of the Prime Minister

The probe into overseas travel by Netanyahu and his family, known as 'Bibi Tours,' has dragged on for 4.5 years. This stalling raises the suspicion that Netanyahu has something to hide.

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Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and State Comptroller Josef Shapira.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and State Comptroller Josef Shapira.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Haaretz Editorial

The latest extension of the deadline given to Benjamin Netanyahu to submit a response in the probe into overseas travel by himself and his family while he was finance minister will expire next Monday.

The affair, also known as “Bibi Tours,” has dragged on for four-and-a-half years. Netanyahu has sought and received no fewer than three extensions to respond to assertions made against him in the third draft of the state comptroller’s report.

The state comptroller’s first draft, composed mostly during the tenure of the previous comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, and published on journalist Raviv Drucker’s blog, alleged that “such funding constitutes reception of a banned gift, and in some cases even a violation of integrity.” The draft further stated that the funding “creates concern about a conflict of interests and is liable to constitute a component of a benefit.”

Two election campaigns have passed since Netanyahu was first required to defend himself against claims that raised the suspicion of corruption, without the voting public knowing if there was any truth to the allegations. Both times, Netanyahu maintained his role as prime minister.

The pretext that Netanyahu has provided for evading a response to the draft report – the security situation – is ridiculous. Netanyhau manages occasionally to free himself up for other necessary business, like meeting singer Art Garfunkel or actively intervening in Likud central committee affairs. The only thing he can’t find free time for is fulfilling his legal duty.

This stalling raises the suspicion that Netanyahu has something to hide and, in any event, has no reason to rush. It is behavior that serves as an example to every citizen on how to behave in the law enforcement system, by adopting tactics of attrition and delaying.

Such behavior would not yield results if Netanyahu didn’t know who he was up against – Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who examined the findings for two years and concluded that there was nothing criminal about them, and State Comptroller Joseph Shapira.

Both of them underwent the Netanyahu family’s litmus test as a precondition for their submitting their candidacies for their current jobs, and both of them consistently flinched. In the case of the attorney general, Weinstein balked at dealing quickly and efficiently in affairs involving the Netanyahu couple, with the disappointing cooperation of State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan.

The years go by and files gather dust on the desks of the attorney general and the comptroller. When the media shows interest, the illusion of activity is created, along with mutual recriminations between the two offices. Then things quickly return to their dormant state.

State Comptroller Shapira will soon reach the midway point in his term unscathed and Weinstein completes six years on the job in another two months, after continuously soft-pedaling investigations into Netanyahu. From his perspective, as from the perspective of the Netanyahu couple, it has been a great success. The loser is the Israeli public.

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