Avigdor Ravid, a member of the committee that twice denied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to receive funds from two American tycoons to cover his legal fees, told Haaretz he had not been subject to any pressure – not in the past and not today – to change his vote on the matter. But Ravid, an attorney, said he was speaking only for himself and not for any other member of the permits committee of the State Comptroller’s Office.
Retired district court judge Awni Habash, who resigned as head of the committee, sent a letter to State Comptroller Joseph Shapira on March 5 – ten days after the committee decided not to permit Netanyahu to accept the funds and before the prime minister’s lawyers petitioned the High Court of Justice against the decision.
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Haaretz Weekly, Episode 19
Habash sent a letter to Shapira saying pressure had been applied to the committee, in other words not only on him. “In light of the reports in the media, I feel that pressure is being applied on the committee from political bodies in order to deviate from the decision that was made,” he wrote.
Ravid, formerly the head of the public ombudsman’s office in the State Comptroller’s Office, said that he had no idea why Habash wrote what he did and had not spoken with him. “I can’t take a position on something I don’t know,” Ravid told Haaretz when asked whether Habash’s statements worried him. “I heard what he said. I don’t know what he is talking about.”
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Another member of the committee, attorney Nurit Yisraeli, former legal adviser of the State Comptroller’s Office, declined to comment on Haaretz’s questions.
As far as is known, Shapira – who appointed Habash as chairman of the permits committee – has not begun an examination into what Habash told him in the letter sent two weeks ago.
The High Court is scheduled to hold a hearing on Netanyahu’s request on Monday. In the committee’s response to the petition, which is represented separately in the case from the State Comptroller, Habash’s resignation was not mentioned. On Sunday, Shapira said he would not comment on the matter until the High Court hears the case.
The permits committee approves or forbids cabinet members from taking actions that would put them in a conflict of interest. Netanyahu’s request involved two American businessmen, his cousin Nathan Milikowsky and Spencer Partrich, who had both testified in the so-called lavish-gifts case.