Attitude of Israeli press to Netanyahu allegations is 'chutzpah'

Under fire from the Israeli media: Mr and Mrs Netanyahu

Under fire from the Israeli media: Mr and Mrs Netanyahu

The Manchester philanthropist who paid for Binyamin Netanyahu's luxurious stay at London's Connaught Hotel in 2006 has denied that the Board of Deputies was involved in the £15,000 stay.

In a libel writ issued against Israel's Channel 10 last week, the Israeli premier said the visit, during the 2006 Lebanon War, had been paid for by State of Israel Bonds and businessman Joshua Rowe, who, he said, had done so on behalf of the Board.

Mr Netanyahu, then Likud chairman, was in London for six days with his wife Sara to "raise the spirits of Anglo-Jewry". He is now suing Channel 10 for a documentary about his alleged extravagances on trips outside Israel. The London stay was claimed to have included a £360 hairdresser's bill, £500 for dry-cleaning and £1,500 for theatre tickets.

But Mr Rowe, chairman of governors at Manchester's King David Schools, said that the Board had had "nothing to do with the visit." He said: "I will have to correct this because Netanyahu must not know what the Board of Deputies is, exactly. To him, this means those who represent British Jews. He doesn't understand the nuance.

"I consulted the United Synagogue, UJIA, BICOM, the Chief Rabbi's Office, just to see if they thought it was the right thing to do to invite him, but not the Board. It was August and many people were away.

"I had to pay myself because we could not raise the money quickly enough. No-one of those I consulted contributed financially, apart from me."

Ultimately, Mr Rowe said, he contributed two-thirds of the cost of the stay, with the rest paid by Israel Bonds and Mr Netanyahu personally.

Israel's State Comptroller is currently investigating trips of all ministers and deputy ministers since 2006, and may appeal for permission from the Israeli Attorney General to question foreign witnesses about the trips.

Mr Rowe called the documentary by Channel 10 and the reporting in the Israeli press "unbelievable chutzpah, it's incredible. It costs £1,000 a night for the suite in London, that's not so unusual and he [Mr Netanyahu] worked day and night with journalists and gave a speech to more than 1,000 people at Kinloss Synagogue.

"Are you going to put the former prime minister in the Ibis or the Travelodge? He was not swanning about."

He denied having gained anything personally from the trip. "I have never done any business where he was involved, I have been given no benefit, I have never sought it or got it. He came here for us, as a favour for us, and this is what he got in return."

    Last updated: 11:25am, April 7 2011