JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dropped plans to revise his investment portfolio, apparently concerned Israelis might think he was trying to avoid any personal financial loss should he opt to go to war with Iran.
To prevent conflicts of interest, investments by the prime minister and other Israeli cabinet members are in blind trusts.
Netanyahu’s office said on Monday he did not want to give “the wrong impression” and had withdrawn a request to the State Comptroller’s office to allow him to make investment changes.
Reporting on Netanyahu’s original plans to reshape his portfolio, local media recalled the conduct of Dan Halutz, chief of Israel’s armed forces in the 2006 Lebanon war.
Halutz was publicly embarrassed by news that on the eve of that conflict, which he helped to plan, he had telephoned his stock broker to sell some of his securities. Halutz said his action was unrelated to the war.
Stepped-up rhetoric by Israeli officials in recent weeks has suggested Israel might soon attack an Iranian nuclear program it sees as a threat to its existence, raising international concern about regional conflict and weighing on Israeli financial markets. Iran denies it is seeking atomic weapons.
A government official, rejecting any comparison with Halutz, said Netanyahu had been planning to make changes to his investments in Israel and abroad for more than a year due to turmoil in global financial markets.
A committee in the State Comptroller’s Office granted Netanyahu’s investment revision request earlier this month, but conditioned any change on approval by his cabinet.
“Despite the committee’s decision, the prime minister informed the State Comptroller in writing last week the committee’s recommendations should be brought to the next government, after it is established, and not now,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.
In a statement, opposition leader Shaul Mofaz of the centrist Kadima party said Netanyahu’s original desire to revamp his investments showed he was aware “of the danger of Israeli economic collapse” in the event of any “hasty attack” against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Mofaz, who took his party out of the governing coalition last month, has accused Netanyahu of planning to lead Israel into war with Iran and of widening a rift with the United States, which opposes any unilateral Israeli attack.
Netanyahu on Friday accused Iran of making “accelerated progress towards achieving nuclear weapons” and of “totally ignoring” Western demands to rein in its atomic program.
Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Alistair Lyon