Israel's State Comptroller Slams Permits Committee for Forcing Netanyahu to Return Unauthorized Legal Funds

TV report says Matanyahu Englman accuses committee of exceeding its authority by ruling that prime minister had to pay back $300,000 provided by his cousin

Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, July 14, 2019.
Ronen Zvulun/Pool Photo via AP

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman slammed members of the permit's committee on Sunday for ruling that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have to pay back unauthorized legal funds given to him by his cousin.

"You have exceeded authority…your job is to decide whether or not to grant permits, not to go beyond that," Englman said to the committee, according Channel 13 News.

The committee defended its stance, writing in a letter to Englman that it did not exceed its authority and that his comments were unacceptable.

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The permits committee rejected on three separate occasions Netanyahu's request to raise funds to finance his legal defense in three criminal cases against him.

Netanyahu sought funding from billionaire Spencer Partrich and his cousin Nathan Milikowsky, a request which attempted to bypass the permits committee of the State Comptroller's Office. The committee also ruled that Netanyahu must pay back the $300,000 he already accepted from Milikowsky without the committee's approval. He was also told to return the suits, or their cash value, that American businessman Spencer Partrich had bought him. 

Netanyahu’s attorney, Navot Tel Tzur, said he would petition the High Court of Justice to reverse the committee’s decision, which he called “a scandalous decision that denies the prime minister the basic right to legal defense.” 

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Haaretz reported on Sunday that Englman plans to abolish a special unit that handles cases of suspected corruption or breach of ethics in higher government echelons. The unit was established by the former comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, who declared that he was determined to intensify the fight against corruption. During Lindenstrauss’ term, the unit addressed former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s conflict of interests, culminating in police investigations in the cases of the Investment Center and Bank Leumi.