A good governance group is pressing Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to open a probe into the whereabouts of dozens of gifts that were presented to opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu when he was prime minister and that are state property, but have vanished since he was ousted from office earlier this year.
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel wrote in a letter Wednesday that the items have “historical, diplomatic and national” value.
The letter, reported on by Channel 12 news, came in the wake of a report earlier this week from the network that the legal adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office, Shlomit Barnea-Farago, had recently sent a letter to Netanyahu demanding he return the items.
Responding to the first report, broadcast Monday, Netanyahu’s Likud party said in a statement that the items were not in his possession or in that of anyone else in his family.
The items had been approved to go on display in the official prime minister’s residence by the PMO’s gifts committee when Netanyahu was living at the complex, located in Jerusalem.
In its letter to Mandelblit, the governance group noted that Netanyahu has not personally responded to the report and, based on the Likud statement, there is cause for concern over what has happened to the items.
“On the face of it, and as long as the gifts are not in the possession of the Netanyahu family, there is a fear that the gifts were stolen from the prime minister’s residence, or transferred to the possession of those who are not authorized to hold them,” the MFQG wrote.
The letter stated it is a “known fact” that the items were on display at the prime minister’s residence and that after Netanyahu ended his term and moved out “they disappeared” from the building.
Should any of the items be found in the possession of the Netanyahu family, despite the Likud denial, consideration should be given to “taking the measures provided for in the Public Service Law” and as recommended by Barnea-Farago, it said.
The items in question are not related to the allegations made in what is dubbed Case 1000, one of the three corruption cases for which Netanyahu is on trial, which deals with alleged expensive gifts he and his family received from wealthy benefactors.
Urging that attention be paid to “the alarming picture that emerges from the circumstances described,” the organization called for a probe into the gifts’ location.
Barnea-Farago’s letter reportedly asked for the return of 21 items that belong to the PMO and another 11 belonging to the prime minister’s official residence.
It threatened that the state reserves the right “to take necessary steps” to get them back.
Among the items not yet returned are two gilded eagles Netanyahu got from then-US president Barak Obama, a copy of the Bible with the first commentary by Rashi given by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and a framed copy of documents then-US president Donald Trump signed ordering the transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
In addition, a porcelain jug and tea set Netanyahu received from then-chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel has not been returned, nor has a decorated box he received from then-US first lady Melania Trump.