Likud Chairman and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed accusations of exorbitant spending during a 2006 visit to London, saying that he made the trip on Israel’s behalf and that his personal expenses were covered by his own money.
Benjamin Netanyahu is greeted by Likud MK Israel Kataz at the Likud secretariat meeting.
In his first public response to the claims, since they were first reported by Israel’s Channel 10 TV last week, Netanyahu told fellow Likud members, who had assembled in Ashkelon, that criticism of him was politically-motivated.
Netanyahu is so angered by the report that he has initiated a $555 thousand lawsuit against the Channel 10 for publishing a harmful story that defamed him and included lies, half truths and distortions, without first checking the facts. Sources close to Netanyahu are checking to see if the story put out by Channel 10 was initiated by somebody in the Israeli Embassy in London as a means of harming Netanyahu’s political reputation.
The visit to Britain, which was undertaken during the Second Lebanon War to advocate Israel’s cause, was funded by private donations and cost about $18,000. Netanyahu insisted on paying back $3.5 thousand for his personal expenses.
Netanyahu and his advisor decided to respond to the report in Ashkelon because a meeting of the Likud secretariat had already been scheduled in the city some time ago. At the meeting Netanyahu was very critical of the government’s inability to stop the incessant rocket attacks from Gaza and regarded the present effort to besmirch his character as an attempt to stop the Likud regaining power.
Netanyahu has always been one of Israel’s most eloquent English speakers and able to explain Israel’s position to the world with great clarity and persuasiveness. As a public figure he might have been better advised to lay out his plans to go to London to the Knesset Ethics committee to avoid any possibility of people thinking that his personal expenses had come from the public purse, something he emphatically denies. It would have been expected that if Netanyahu had come before the Ethics committee for them to give a rubber stamp to such an important visit, it would have been approved without a problem.