Crowdfunding Effort for Netanyahu's Legal Defense Raises Over $800,000 in 24 Hours

The crowdfunding campaign calls Netanyahu's corruption trial 'the result of persecution and an attempt to obtain a conviction'

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Haaretz
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in Jerusalem, in December.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in Jerusalem, in December.Credit: Emil Salman
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Haaretz

A crowdfunding campaign on behalf of Benjamin Netanyahu has raised more than 2.5 million shekels (about $804,550) in under 24 hours, with thousands of Israelis donating to bolster the former prime minister’s legal defense fund as he faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Even if he is permitted to use the donations from the online campaign for his legal defense fund, it is unclear if Netanyahu will actually need the money. He is reportedly mulling a plea deal in his trial, which was floated by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit after former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak intervened to mediate a bargain on the opposition leader’s behalf.

"I couldn’t remain indifferent,” Barak said in an interview with the Ynet news website. “Netanyahu was one of the great defenders of the justice system.”

The campaign, announced by former lawmaker and right-wing media personality Yinon Magal on Twitter Sunday, is titled "Netanyahu, you'll never march alone!"

The drive is intended to "mobilize the large masses of the right-wing camp," according to its webpage.

Netanyahu's trial is "the result of persecution and an attempt to obtain, in any way and at any cost, a conviction of the camp leader," as well as to "distance the former prime minister from the national leadership," according to the campaign's webpage.

“In recent years, we have felt that Netanyahu is fighting the war of us all and paying the price for years of standing firm at the head of the right-wing camp," the website reads. "We heard the evidence at trial, we understood that Netanyahu is paying the price of the legal persecution against the right-wing camp. He does not have to pay alone.”

According to the site, more than 9,800 Israelis have already donated to the campaign, which hopes to raise 5 million shekels (about $1.6 million) in total.

Mendelblit has conditioned a plea deal on requesting the Jerusalem District Court to rule that Netanyahu’s conduct was tainted by moral turpitude. This would ban him from public service for seven years, as stipulated by law. Netanyahu, however, wants a deal that would allow him to remain in politics. Mendelblit objects to this demand.

In December, Netanyahu rejected Mendelblit’s position submitted to the High Court of Justice that he must return funds he had received for his legal defense from his close associates, businessmen Nathan Milikowsky and Spencer Partrich.

Netanyahu had received $300,000 from Milikowsky and 2 million shekels (some $600,000) as a loan from Partrich. Netanyahu argued that the gift from his cousin Milikowsky, who has since died, was permissible as he is currently a lawmaker and not prime minister.

The attorney general wrote that the money from Milikowsky is “a gift that must be fully refunded pursuant to the provisions of the Gifts Law.”

Mendelblit noted that the relationship between Netanyahu and Milikowsky is not only one of kinship and friendship, but according to information revealed in a separate case, involves “business ties of significant scope.”

In 2019, the Israel edition of Forbes magazine estimated the then-prime minister’s personal wealth at 50 million shekels ($13.9 million).

The money, which Forbes said Netanyahu earned as a lecturer and consultant to the Israeli tech company BATM after his defeat in the 1999 election, made him Israel’s fourth-wealthiest politician, according to the survey.

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