Ex-legal Chiefs Blast Israel's AG for Letting Netanyahu Take Legal Defense Funds From Tycoon Friends

'It's no secret the prime minister is a wealthy man. He should not be allowed to get funding from foreign tycoons,' attorneys tell Avichai Mendelblit in a letter

File photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit attending a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
Dan Balilty / AP

The Movement for Integrity, whose members include two former senior prosecutors, have condemned the attorney general's decision to allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept funds for his Case 1000 legal defense from people questioned in the case.

Last week Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit permitted Netanyahu to accept funds from two people who testified in the champagne and cigars case, subject to state comptroller approval. Mendelblit said the requested funding from businessman Spencer Partrich and Netanyahu’s cousin, Nathan Milikowsky, could not be legally defined as a “gift.”

In a letter to State Comptroller Joseph Shapira the two ex-prosecutors, Avia Alef and Gal Levertov, and the group’s legal adviser, Yuval Yoaz, wrote on Sunday:

“The attorney general’s position is mistaken from a legal perspective, and under the circumstances of the case even reaches a level of extremely unreasonable.”

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Until five years ago, Alef headed the economic section of the state prosecution, while Levertov headed the international section.

Alef and Levertov attacked Mendelblit’s claim that the money would not being given to Netanyahu by virtue of his being a public servant.

“There is no disputing that the granting of funds by private entities to the prime minister, including for the purpose of financing his legal defense, is considered a benefit,” the letter said. They also noted that Mendelblit did not address the difficulty that arises from Netanyahu asking for money from Partrich and Milikovsky in a case that focuses on receiving gifts and money.

Under the rules of ethics, only the permissions committee in the State Comptroller’s Office has the authority to permit a cabinet member to act contrary to ethical rules, which stipulate that “a minister shall not receive any benefit other than his salary paid by the state.” The movement called on the permissions committee not to approve the prime minister’s request.

The permissions committee, whose members are former Jerusalem District Court Deputy President Awni Habash, former State Comptroller’s Office legal adviser Nurit Yisraeli and Prof. Aviad Hacohen are expected to convene next Thursday. By then Shapira is also expected to express his opinion on the issue.

The letter questioned the need for the premier to seek outside funding altogether.

“It’s no secret that the prime minister is a wealthy man, who inter alia owns a number of prestigious real estate assets. Therefore, from both a public and a legal perspective, the prime minister should not be allowed to get funding from foreign tycoons,” the attorneys wrote.