Netanyahu comes under fire for request to revise investment portfolio

Netanyahu comes under fire for request to revise investment portfolio

PM later changed his mind; opponents say move 'obscene' and possibly Iran-related

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: AP/Gali Tbbon, Pool)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: AP/Gali Tbbon, Pool)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rescinded a request to make changes in his personal investment portfolio, just days after receiving approval from the Authorizations Committee of the State Comptroller’s Office.

The news that Netanyahu had requested to make the changes drew sharp criticism from politicians in the opposition, some of whom who said it revealed the prime minister’s “intentions” — apparently regarding a possible strike on Iran, which would dramatically affect stock markets around the world.

Netanyahu’s lawyer, David Shimron, said he had approached the prime minister a year ago suggesting the changes “in light of the shifts of the world economy.”

By law, all Knesset members and government ministers are required to entrust their investment portfolios to a third party upon taking office, and must receive permission from the Authorizations Committee before making any changes in their investments.

Citing the drastically changing global economy, Netanyahu wished to change both his domestic and foreign investment portfolios. On August 15, the Authorizations Committee approved the request, contingent on the cabinet approving the move as well. The cabinet was scheduled to meet on October 10 to discuss the issue.

Within days, the prime minister withdrew the request. A statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu wished “to prevent any possible misinterpretation” of the proposed change.

Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) on Monday called the prime minister’s request to change his portfolio “puzzling,” saying that the move showed “more than just a hint of his intentions.” Mofaz further said that the request showed how aware Netanyahu is of the security and economic risks involved in attacking Iran.

In recent months, talk of a possible strike on Iran has intensified amid reports that Tehran is developing a nuclear weapons capability. Both Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have reportedly expressed support for such a move.

Labor party chair Shelly Yachimovich called Netanyahu’s portfolio request “obscene,” saying that even a child can understand that the prime minister is privy to sensitive security and economic intelligence that affects the stock market. Netanyahu himself, moreover, has the power to alter the world’s stock markets by dint of the decisions he takes, she said. If Netanyahu “has relevant information, he should be sharing it with the public,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

Netanyahu’s request is reminiscent of a similar controversy involving former IDF chief of General Staff Dan Halutz, who came under fire in August 2006 for selling off approximately $28,000 in stocks just hours after two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped on the Israeli side of the border with Lebanon, an incident which quickly escalated into the Second Lebanon War.

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