A-G: C’tee should consider making PM return full $300,000 tycoon donation

Source close to PM: Mandelblit lost control, he’s trying to topple Netanyahu in any price

ATTORNEY-GENERAL Avichai Mandelblit faces a decision that not only will determine his career, but also the trajectory of the state. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
ATTORNEY-GENERAL Avichai Mandelblit faces a decision that not only will determine his career, but also the trajectory of the state.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit told the High Court of Justice in a legal brief on Sunday that the State Comptroller Committee might need to make Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pay back the full $300,000 his family received from a tycoon family member without authorization.
Sources close to Netanyahu slammed the decision, saying, “all of these actions of the attorney-general show his purpose is to prevent the prime minister from getting a fair trial.”
In early 2019, the previous members of that committee had ordered Netanyahu to return the full $300,000 he received from cousin Natan Milikowsky, because he had obtained it without permission from the committee (which must approve special fund transfers to public servants) and because he and Milikowsky have serious and potentially problematic financial ties.
However, in summer 2019, the committee’s membership was changed by new State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman.
For a year, the new committee flirted with allowing Netanyahu to receive donations despite the previous committee having rejected him three times.
Finally, the committee rejected Netanyahu's request for receiving NIS 10 million in donations on July 2 after Mandelblit made it clear that he would view such a move as illegal.
Still, the committee gave Netanyahu favorable treatment on a related issue on July 2, saying he need only return $30,000 out of the $300,000 in donations he received from Milikowsky for his legal fight without approval.
Explaining this part of the decision, the committee said that the other $270,000 had gone to Sara Netanyahu’s legal defense, which was permitted since she is a private citizen.
Good government NGOs criticized this part of the decision and brought the issue back to the High Court to compel Netanyahu to return all of the funds.
Mandelblit's legal brief on Sunday essentially agreed with the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel that the circumstances in which the funds were given to Sara Netanyahu could be seen as an indirect way to give funds to the prime minister himself.
If the purpose of the funds was determined to be to help the prime minister and using his wife as a loophole, then the committee should order Netanyahu to return all of the funds.
The attorney-general criticized the committee for not addressing the issue, and told the High Court that the committee must express a factual finding on the issue regarding what was the purpose of the funds.
Sources close to Netanyahu said that this level of intervention by the attorney-general into the comptroller committee’s decision was improper. Noting that Mandelblit had referred the issue to the committee, the sources blasted Mandelblit for second-guessing the committee’s decision and said it showed he was aligned against Netanyahu now across the board.
Ironically, Mandelblit had angered the prior comptroller committee by permitting Netanyahu to receive an NIS 2 million loan from tycoon Spencer Partrich.
Netanyahu then used this point against Mandelblit, saying he was being inconsistent – though Mandelblit’s point had been a loan was inherently different than a donation with no strings or repayment requirement.
Beside the $300,000, the overall funding issue for the prime minister is still very much alive as his lawyer, Micha Fettman, quit in mid-July due to a lack of payment and even his new lawyer, Yossi Segev, told the Jerusalem District Court on July 19 that he was not sure yet whether Netanyahu had decided to pay him to continue to represent him in the ongoing bribery trial.
Critics say that Netanyahu is worth a reported NIS 50 million and should not be making an issue of paying for his own legal defense.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert was allowed to receive donations for his legal defense, but only after resigning and becoming a private citizen.
In the Holy Land Affair, the former prime minister was convicted by the Tel Aviv District Court of bribery based on funds given to his brother, something which could parallel Mandelblit’s argument that giving funds to Sara Netanyahu cannot be separated from the prime minister either.