Comptroller Flags Netanyahu Conflict of Interest as Communications Minister

Netanyahu Communications Minister, Yosef Shapira, comptroller
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira (Isaac Hararil/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM - A state comptroller’s report has accused Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of failing to disclose information about conflicts of interest in his former capacity of Communications Minister, according to media reports.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Communications Ministry “did not disclose to the Attorney General the full list” of his conflicts of interest connected to Bezek’s and Walla’s owner when requested, according to the report published on Wednesday.

Comptroller Yosef Shapira charged that Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo Filber “acted unprofessionally and without justification” by not informing the attorney general of Netanyahu’s personal relationship with Bezeq chairman Shaul Elovitz when information was requested in 2015.

In response, Netanyahu’s office dismissed the comptroller report as “another futile attempt to create a scandal against the prime minister out of thin air,” according to Channel 10.

Netanyahu and Elovitz “are on friendly terms but nothing more,” and “all the decisions he made regarding the communications market were for the benefit of the public alone,” the statement read.

The revelation comes as Elovitz is under criminal investigation for violating conflict of interest principles in a transaction between two of his companies: Bezek and Yes.

The comptroller’s report referred to 12 issues where the Netanyahu- Elovitz relationship could pose a serious conflict affecting policy decisions.

Some of the items on the list were not mentioned to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit when he decided to give Netanyahu legal clearance to continue holding the communications portfolio (in addition to being prime minister and foreign minister), with a proviso that he abstain from involvement in certain issues.

Thus, Mandelblit’s decision was based on incomplete disclosure, and might have been different had he seen the full list. Shapira also faulted Mandelblit for failing to probe further into the relationship between Netanyahu and Elovitz.

Elovitz, meanwhile has denied that the two discussed policy issues relating to a conflict of interest.

The report also touches on the communication ministry’s failure to move forward with a range of reforms designed to promote competition in the internet and telecommunications industry.

Decisions from 2015 or earlier directing Bezek to permit competitors to fully use its infrastructure or to partially piggyback off its infrastructure by permitting competitors to insert wires into its pipes were either partially implemented or not implemented at all, said the report.

The report quoted the prime minister’s office stating “We completely reject the conclusions of the State Comptroller,” but declined to address specific issues, saying that the main criticized party was the communications ministry.