State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is expected to announce Thursday the launching of an investigation into the overseas trips by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family, revealed by a Channel 10 investigative report.
On Wednesday Lindenstrauss told the Knesset's State Control Committee that "it is improper for public figures to travel at the expense of donors and philanthropists. I've said this several times in the past."
The committee granted Lindenstrauss' aide the authority needed to "demand relevant documentation and summon witnesses."
Lindenstrauss said that a committee will begin hearings on Friday to discuss all aspects of the so-called "Bibi-tours" affair.
Bibi, wife Sara board plane (Archive photo: Amos Ben-Gershom, GPO)
"There was a problem getting testimony from part of the people mentioned" in the Channel 10 report on Netanyahu, "because they are not under the comptroller's jurisdiction. If police is the solution, then the attorney-general should be notified," he said.
Netanyahu said Wednesday that the allegations that some of his travels outside Israel were funded by private businessmen were part of an "orchestrated and organized slander campaign" against him.
"We're talking about all kinds of stories, most of them baseless and contaminated by hypocrisy. There are journalists that do no like that I am prime minister and are trying in their way to change that," the PM said in an interview that was broadcast on Channel Two and on YouTube, in which he answered recorded questions from web surfers all over the world.
Netanyahu added, "I want to let those journalists know: It won't help you any, it's malicious and its hypocritical and I will be here for many years and I won't change my positions. Nothing was funded illegally."
The premier said the media was "infected by hypocrisy, because every year there are hundreds of trips by members of Knesset, ministers and former prime ministers. There is a standard for trips. The standard for previous prime ministers and previous presidents is acceptable, and is no different from Clinton or Blair. Others did not fly charter or stay at youth hostels.
"I was not invited by donors or private individuals. It's all distorted," he stressed. "The truth will come out. You cannot hold me to a double-standard. Everyone traveled with their wives. The worst part is that in order to harm me, they automatically aim for my wife, threateningly and unfairly."
Meanwhile, the Globes financial newspaper reported that Netanyahu's office requested that a double bed be installed on the plane taking him to Europe next week.
Due to the request, Globes reported, the government will be forced to charter a wide bodies Boeing 767 jet, instead of the usual narrower Boeing 757 model.
Aviation officials said this will cost the Israeli taxpayer an extra $310,000.
Aviad Glickman, Yoav Zitun and Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report
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