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Has Netanyahu lost control over his own loyalists?

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who worked closely with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for years, is about to decide whether to open an inquiry into the premier regarding the financing of past private trips.

Five years passed between Channel 10's “Bibi Tours” investigative report and the publication of the scathing state comptroller report on May 24. The report details a scandal surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara. The comptroller, former Judge Joseph Shapira, has determined that philanthropists, tycoons and private businessmen (most of them foreign citizens) helped fund the travels of Netanyahu, Sara and their children from 2003 to 2005. The investigative report revealed Netanyahu's methods: a ramified system of fundraising, including raising funds from businessmen with economic interests in Israel. Some of the activities were carried out when he was finance minister, and some when he was opposition chairman. The state comptroller has provided some of the material to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, recommending that he open a criminal investigation. Netanyahu’s future is currently in the hands of the attorney general, who had served until relatively recently as government secretary and worked closely with Netanyahu for more than four years.

The story that is stirring up the media and the Israeli public this week is the whitewashing of this affair for five years by Israel’s gatekeepers and government representatives of the rule of law and its enforcement in Israel. After the investigation was publicized in 2011, a comprehensive police investigation was supposed to begin. But the issue was blocked by then-Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. For context, the comptroller, Judge Micha Lindenstrauss, had given Weinstein findings connected to the affair, with a recommendation to open a criminal investigation.

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