Netanyahu barred from using donations to fund bribery legal defense

The prime minister had wanted to accept donations from his cousin, businessman Natan Milikovsky, and businessman Spencer Partridge.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem July 30, 2017.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem July 30, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cannot accept donations from wealthy businessmen to fund his legal defense against bribery allegations, a committee appointed by State Comptroller Joseph Shapira decided Wednesday.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit pointed out that the committee did not say that no public official could receive donations for their legal defense in any circumstance, but that the specific facts in Netanyahu’s case precluded such action.
The prime minister had wanted to accept donations from his cousin, businessman Natan Milikovsky, and businessman Spencer Partridge.
“As a rule, this is not the kind of issue that is justified under the circumstances of the case and is appropriate from a public perspective,” a document published on behalf of the committee explained.
“Legal expenses arising from a criminal investigation, which includes a suspicion of criminal acts in connection with various financiers, should not be carried out by financiers,” the document said.
Netanyahu’s new legal defense team sought to have the committee reconsider its decision based on new arguments.
“In light of the combination of the circumstances surrounding the death of attorney Jacob Weinroth and the security incidents that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been involved with recently, he was unable to answer the committee’s questions at the time that was set,” the attorneys said in response.
“The new team of attorneys headed by Navot Tel-Tzur has already approached the committee and clarified that in the coming days all the arguments for the request to the committee will be presented, including precedents in which permits were given to elected officials to finance their defense,” the statement continued. “We have to wait for the final decision of the committee after it hears the full arguments presented to it.”
It was unclear whether the committee would grant Netanyahu’s new lawyers a chance to reargue the issues since Weinroth’s team had extensive time to present arguments before he died.
A statement by Mandelblit’s office said, “The committee’s decision confirmed the position of the attorney-general that under the circumstances, the Gifts Law does not apply and that the Permits Committee is the appropriate forum authorized to discuss the prime minister’s request. The committee’s decision speaks for itself, and it even outlines important rules for general implementation of such issues in the future.”
Maariv contributed to this report.