Probe opens over funding for Israeli PM's trips abroad

16:52, April 01, 2011      

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday denied allegations of financial misconduct leveled by an Israeli television station, as the government prepared to investigate the charges.

A recent investigative report broadcast by Israeli Channel 10 claimed that Netanyahu used public funds, in addition to that of donors, for private purposes and trips abroad while in office.

The Israeli media has dubbed the controversy the "Bibi Tours" affair.

Netanyahu may be facing an investigation by the State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, if he finds enough evidence to warrant opening a case.

On Thursday Lindenstrauss was given authority by the State Control Committee to act as a one-man panel of inquiry, the Ha' aretz daily reported. However, given that most of the controversial trips and witnesses are abroad, it may be hard to gather evidence owing to "technical difficulties," according to the state panel.

During a live interview and Q&A session with viewers on an internet video site Wednesday evening, Netanyahu slammed the imbroglio as "hypocritical malice" and a "prefabricated" story.

He denied that his trips had been funded by private donors. He stressed that the trips were made while on official duty, and not private visits, as alleged in the television report.

In reply to one viewer's question, Netanyahu said the affair was an attempt to bring him and the government down, emphasizing, in his words, that he plans to remain in the government for many years.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak backed Netanyahu on Thursday during an interview with Israel Radio, condemning the media's portrayal of the issues involved. He called the affair " superficial" and "shallow," adding that the prime minister was " not the only political figure in Israel to fly on private planes."

Source: Xinhua
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