Netanyahu Backtracks, Will Not Ask Cousin to Fund Legal Defense

PM's lawyers says he will seek funding from another businessman, Spencer Partrich ■ Netanyahu reneges on agreement to provide committee with details on ties to Partrich

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem May 5, 2019.
Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has withdrawn his request to accept funding for his legal defense from his cousin, Nathan Milikowsky, the prime minister’s lawyers said Monday.

The permits committee in the State Comptroller’s Office was about to decide yet again on the premier’s request to take 2 million shekels ($557,000) from his cousin to help fund his legal defense in the three criminal cases in which he may be indicted, pending a hearing.

Netanyahu said he will instead seek to raise the funds from a different businessman, Spencer Partrich, and that he is considering a request to another donor. Hanging over this are revelations that Netanyahu made money by buying and selling discounted shares in a company owned by Milikowsky, an issue now being investigated by prosecutors.

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Netanyahu’s lawyers said they would refuse to comply with the preconditions set down by the permits committee before meeting them, including the filing of a declaration of assets by Netanyahu and complete details of the relationship between him and Partrich. This goes against the compromise arrived at before the High Court of Justice, under which the committee agreed to hold another hearing on Netanyahu’s request to get help from tycoons for his legal defense, while Netanyahu “would provide the committee, at its request, all details it may request for the purpose of the supplementary hearing.”

The details were first reported by Channel 13 News. Last month, the state comptroller gave Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit a document detailing false declarations Netanyahu had made about his wealth since being elected prime minister in 2009.

In response to Netanyahu’s petition, the members of the committee in its previous composition wrote that he apparently “has not bothered to pay even one shekel of his own money to finance his legal defense." In addition, the committee wrote that Netanyahu had not answered various questions, including the total amount required to finance his legal expenses, if he had paid anything toward his defense – and if so, how much – and how much he might be able to fund on his own later on.

The attorneys said in their letter that they wanted to meet the committee members as soon as possible, because their decision could have an impact on the hearing to be held for Netanyahu by the attorney general. Last month, Haaretz reported that Netanyahu’s lawyers had refused to collect the investigative material in his cases to prepare for the hearing until they could be assured their fees would be paid. Mendelblit has said Netanyahu’s hearing would be held by July, but chances of that happening are essentially nil.