Attorney General Opposes Letting U.S. Tycoon Fund Netanyahu's Legal Defense

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press conference in Jerusalem, June 16, 2020.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press conference in Jerusalem, June 16, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced that he opposes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request to accept 10 million shekels (about $3 million) from U.S. businessman Spencer Partrich, a legal opinion released by the Justice Ministry said Tuesday.

etanyahu asked the permits committee in the State Comptroller’s Office to allow him accept the funds to help him pay for his legal defense in the three criminal cases in which he has been charged. 

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The prime minister seeks to receive outside funding from his cousin Nathan Milikowsky as well as from Partrich. After convening last month, the panel asked the attorney general for his position, as Partrich is listed as a witness in one of the cases against Netanyahu.

Mendelblit's legal opinion, which was sent to the committee, said that any gift the prime minister receives is given to him as a public servant, and therefore forbidden.

There are exceptions, he wrote, which depend on the nature of the relationship between a civil servant and the benefactor, or the nature of the gift. However, Mendelblit adds, this is not the case in this particular circumstance.

Sources close to Netanyahu commented that the attorney general's opinion is scandalous, politically motivated, and reflects a legal double standard and conflict of interest. Mendelblit "has indicted the prime minster ruthlessly and is doing everything possible to sabotage the prime minister's ability to defend himself," the sources said, adding that the attorney general is intensifying his assault on Netanyahu and the right wing, using criminal means like extortion of witnesses.

Sources familiar with the process said that the permits committee must adopt Mendelblit's opinion and reject Netanyahu's request. The State Comptroller's position is that the committee can permit public servants to accept gifts, but cannot overturn an attorney general's ruling. 

In February, the permits committee informed Netanyahu that it will reconsider its decision denying him permission to accept the funds. The announcement followed Netanyahu’s fourth request to the committee for permission to have Partrich help him meet his legal expenses.

Netanyahu was formally indicted last month in the Jerusalem District Court in three corruption cases, in which he has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust. – allegations he denies. The prime minster also claims that now that charges have been filed against him, he anticipates incurring major legal expenses to mount his defense.

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