State Comptroller criticises Netanyahu’s business links

A new report published by Israel’s State Comptroller has criticised Israel’s Prime Minister for failing to declare his relationship with the owner of the Bezeq telecom company.

The report raises questions about a potential conflict of interest for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu because Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch also owns the Walla news agency. Haaretz has questioned the neutrality of Walla’s reporting about Netanyahu and his Government.

In May 2015, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira asked all the cabinet ministers of Netanyahu’s new government, his fourth, to fill in a questionnaire aimed at revealing any potential conflicts of interests.

Shapira’s report highlights Netanyahu’s links to Elovitch as a potential conflict of interest that was not declared in the earlier survey, particularly in light of the fact that the Prime Minister also served as Israel’s Communications Minister until February 2017.

Netanyahu said the report was ‘another attempt to create a storm out of nothing’ and said all decisions he had taken as Communications Minister were done ‘with the general public best interests at heart’.

The report also criticises the Director General of the Communications ministry, Shlomo Filber, for acting in Bezeq’s specific interests, with the report explicitly stating that “the regulator is inclined toward the interests of the regulated body at the expense of the interest of the wider public”.

Filber, a political appointment of Netanyahu’s, was yesterday questioned by the Israel Securities Authority regarding suspicions relating to ethics violations and securities fraud, as part of a ongoing investigation into officials at the Bezeq group.

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