Thursday, February 26, 2015

Grand Theft Netanyahu?

Grand Theft Netanyahu?

by Stephen Lendman

When he arrives in Washington for his March 3 congressional address, lawmakers showing up will welcome a war criminal/serial liar/thief.

A scathing Israeli State Comptroller report provided evidence of significant financial improprieties.

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira believes a criminal investigation is warranted. Perhaps an indictment on misuse of state resources for personal gain will follow.

A political firestorm erupted close to Israeli March 17 elections. How it'll affect them remains to be seen.

Whether Netanyahu wins or loses won't help Palestinians. All Israeli regimes since 1948 persecuted them viciously. 

Expect nothing different ahead no matter who wins. The loser is certain like always.

Netanyahu remaining prime minister may improve things for Palestinians sooner by sparking greater public anger for change.

A friendlier face replacing him following business as usual likely means more lost years for long delayed justice.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has more than critics to face ahead of fast approaching elections. 

Shapira's report says his expenditures for two personal residences (in Jerusalem and Caesarea on weekends) were excessive and improper without integrity or transparency.

It's one thing getting prime ministerial perks. Quite another spending large sums improperly. Former health minister Yael German called him "thoroughly disconnected from the people."

Opposition elements say he's unfit to serve. Anyone following his policies knew that long ago. 

He's ruthless, irresponsible, lawless and guilty of genocidal crimes no matter how much money he did or didn't steal. He remains unaccountable. 

He belongs in prison, not high office. He has buckets of blood on his hands he'll never be able to wash off. 

Stolen shekels are minor crimes compared last summer's genocidal high ones alone.

Plus daily persecution throughout Occupied Palestine. Netanyahu's vendetta against Iran threatens regional peace.

He risks war on the Islamic Republic that could embroil the entire region in conflict. He's capable of ordering a nuclear strike on Iran.

Someone like him in power threatens world peace. Especially allied with Washington.

Meanwhile he has questions to answer. Shapira's report showed he used government funds for personal expenses.

His cleaning ones doubled from $138,000 in 2009 to over $250,000 in 2011. They dropped slightly in 2012.

His overall expenses rose from $475,000 in 2009 to $615,000 in 2010 to $798,000 in 2011. Then slightly lower in 2012 and 2013, but remaining inordinately high.

Spending for food and hospitality more than doubled in 2010 and 2011 compared to 2009.

According to Shapira: "In light of the large cleaning costs, the PMO should examine…(its) prudence and act to avoid unnecessary expenditures." He stopped short of calling him a thief.

At the same time, he believes evidence he compiled warrants a criminal investigation. He spent hundreds of thousands of shekels on takeout food alone even though his official residence employed a cook.

Evidence on work done by electrician Avi Fahima was sent to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein - apparently on recommendation by Israel's state prosecutor.

Cleaning expenses on Netanyahu's weekend resident alone cost Israeli taxpayers around $2,000 a month - "even though Mr. Netanyahu and his family spent most of the year at the official residence," said Shapira.

His report explained Netanyahu's office employees were at times forced to pay for his personal expenses - without reimbursement.

Deficiencies in Knesset administrative practices were noted as well as financial mismanagement of human resources at Netanyahu's residences.

"The meaning of a failure to pay back these invoices from petty cash is that PMO employees absorbed the cost of private expenditures of the prime minister or his family," said Shapira. 

"When a PMO employee is forced to pay from his own pocket for an expenditure by the prime minister, this is improper administration, and it makes no difference whether the sum is large or small."

Netanyahu faces other criticism for spending $20,000 at his weekend home for water alone. Another $2,500 for ice cream.

Over $100,000 to install a bed in his plane for a five-hour flight. Shapira's audit found his budgeted expenses "were made without a process that analyzed needs or determined estimated expenses."

"This did not meet a single criteria for the rules of proper management, and hurt the ability to carry out proper auditing and oversight," Shapira said.

Netanyahu's household expenditures for "family and guests at the official residence, especially in 2010 and 2011, and to a lesser extent in 2012, did not meet a single criteria of the basic principles of proportionality, reasonableness, economy and efficiency,"  Shapira explained.

He was highly critical of out-of-line expenses for cleaning, water, food, makeup, hairstyling, electrical work, and other expenditures taxpayers had to pay.

Israeli commentator Udi Segal believes Shapira's report won't spoil Netanyahu's chance for remaining prime minister. He's in a close race at this stage he looks likely to win.

Haaretz said he won't disclose the foreign bank recipient of $145,000 transfer he made in 2002.

Journalist Uri Blau published information on it. Netanyahu refuses to explain what's important to disclose.

Blau published the following, saying: 

"Dear Mathew - Please forward to Lehman Brothers in New York the sum of $145,000 from my account at the Royal Bank of Scotland."

According to Blau, "reports from the Swiss leaks continue to uncover tax shelters and other bank accounts." 

"It's important to remember that Netanyahu also had an account in a tax shelter. Documents pertaining to this account are being revealed here for the first time."

"Last year, journalist Lilach Weissman exposed in Globes' that between the years 1998-2003 Netanyahu held an account at a branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland in the Channel Islands of Jersey, known for their comfy tax regime." 

"During the majority of that time, Netanyahu was off politics, though he returned to hold a public position as Foreign Minister at the end of 2002."

"According to Weissman, Netanyahu used this account to pay the  $2,468.45 to Shimron, Molho, Persky & Co. law firm; to transfer $8,000 to the bank account of IDF Colonel (reserves) Yehuar Gal, his Chief of Staff in 2000 and to transfer $1,800 to Aviv Bushinsky, his former spokesperson."

"But the biggest amount we know to have transferred from Netanyahu's account has reached an unknown destination."

He referred to the $145,000 mentioned above. It went to a Lehman client account identified only by a number - no name. 

Netanyahu refuses to explain further. Israelis have a right to know if he acted legally or otherwise.

On March 3, he'll deliver what's called the most controversial address ever by a foreign leader to a joint session of Congress.

During his Washington stay, no White House welcome mat will greet him. Obama, Biden and Kerry intend boycotting his speech. Reports suggest so will dozens of Democrat lawmakers

Obama's national security advisor Susan Rice called his congressional appearance "destructive" of US/Israeli relations.

He's combining a pre-election PR stunt with efforts to sabotage ongoing Iranian P5+1 talks. 

He repeatedly lies about Tehran's nuclear weapons program his own Mossad says has no military component.

He'll grossly breach protocol two ways. By addressing Congress with no White House invitation. By urging lawmakers reject any P5+1 deal made. 

Reasons enough for any US president to want nothing to do with him. Obama and Netanyahu clearly don't like each other. 

The White House has more reasons than ever to want him defeated on March 17. Polls suggest otherwise.

A Final Comment

On February 26, Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein met with state prosecution senior officials to consider whether Netanyahu's financial improprieties warrant a criminal investigation.

It's expected to follow. Netanyahu will be required to testify. An Israeli Channel 2 report said a formal investigation "appears inescapable…if only to clear away the cloud of suspicion."

On Thursday, Netanyahu hired top criminal attorney Jacob Weinroth to represent him in case charges follow.

Media reports suggest probing his spending excess might uncover more than what's already known. 

He's suspected of using large amounts of state funds for private expenses. Evidence proving it would likely mean criminal indictment. 

He'd face trial and possible prison time if convicted. He deserves that and more for his high crimes against peace.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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