Watchdog Looks at PM Travel Financing

Kadima files a police complaint over allegations that Netanyahu took trips abroad that were funded by private businessmen.

The opposition party Kadima filed a police complaint yesterday over allegations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife had taken trips abroad that were funded by private businessmen.

The allegations were aired Wednesday by Channel 10 reporter Raviv Drucker, although Drucker himself said that he believed Netanyahu's actions, while unethical, were not illegal.

In addition, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss ordered his staff to conduct a preliminary probe.

MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima ), who filed the complaint at the Yarkon district police in Tel Aviv, said that ostensibly the report brought up suspicions of "breaking the laws of the State of Israel, offenses of bribery, fraud and breach of faith."

Kadima also asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to investigate the allegations.

The Channel 10 probe alleged that 16 of Netanyahu's trips abroad had received illicit funding, and looked into Netanyahu's relationship with foreign businessman over the past decade. In one instance, the report said, in 2004, when Netanyahu was finance minister, he attended a conference at the American Enterprise Research Institute in the United States. The institute allegedly paid $23,000 for Netanyahu and his wife's flights. Another allegation was that Spencer Partridge, an American friend of Netanyahu, provided him with an "aerial taxi" - a personal plane at Netanyahu's disposal for all his domestic U.S. travel needs.

In calling on law enforcement agencies to investigate Netanyahu, Kadima slammed Netanyahu. The deputy director general for human resources in the Prime Minister's Office, Ran Ishai, who is considered close to Netanyahu, criticized the Channel 10 probe on Army Radio yesterday, saying: "What do they want, for Netanyahu to pay for his flight and his hotel? When he agrees to travel and appear at events, do they expect him to pay for it?" After the interview, Netanyahu's bureau restrained Ishai from giving any more interviews.

The interview has reportedly prompted acting Civil Service Commissioner Ehud Prauer to look into whether Ishai, as a civil servant, had crossed the line into the political realm. The Prime Minister's Bureau said Drucker has been trying for years "to besmirch the name of the prime minister and his family," and called the Channel 10 probe "libelous" and "mendacious." The statement also said: "Mrs. Netanyahu occasionally accompanied her husband at the expense of the inviting parties, her own expense or that of her family, as [is] accepted and legal." Regarding the flights on Partridge's plane, the bureau said "these were flights on which Mr. Partridge himself was traveling, in his plane, to Mr. Netanyahu's lectures, which were given to bodies working for the State of Israel, not for any private event.