Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been ordered to return some 30 gifts given to him during his 12-year term as premier, as they rightfully belong to the State of Israel. But during a recent sitdown with the Prime Minister’s Office legal adviser, Shlomit Barnea Farago, Netanyahu’s lawyers said they could not return the gifts because “some were broken and some were lost.”
Channel 13 news reported Thursday that Barnea Farago was apparently not convinced by the lawyer’s explanations, and she is expected to notify Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who will then decide whether or not to probe the matter.
“The lawyers presented a detailed account, according to which some of the gifts were found, others were lost or broken years ago, and others were taken by staff at the Prime Minister’s Office, during a major renovation of the office,” according to a statement issued on behalf of Netanyahu.
Earlier this month, a good governance group pressed Mandelblit to open a probe into the whereabouts of the gifts.
“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 Movement for Quality Government 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.
The Netanyahu family moved out of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on July 10, almost a month after Naftali Bennett succeeded him.
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.
Among the items not yet returned are two gilded eagles Netanyahu got from then-United States 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.