Netanyahu to High Court: Let me get tycoon donations for legal defense

Netanyahu also asks justices to veto comptroller c'tee on need to return $300,000.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu – if they go to trial, how will his corruption trials end? (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu – if they go to trial, how will his corruption trials end?
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu filed a petition with the High Court of Justice on Monday, asking for approval to receive donations from tycoons for his legal defense of an expected public corruption indictment.
Netanyahu asked the High Court to override a special State Comptroller committee ruling in February which prohibited him from receiving such funds and which had also ordered him to return $300,000 in donations he had received from his cousin and tycoon Natan Milikovsky without approval.
The committee’s February decision included a broader ruling that Netanyahu cannot receive donations from tycoons to fight the public corruption charges against him – which is why he must return the funds he received without approval.
At the time, Netanyahu said the decision was “unprecedented and harmed fundamental rights” that all citizens possess to finance defending themselves legally.
In his petition, he implied that he was being picked on by the committee because he was prime minister and wealthy.
He argued that just as poor people should not be undermined from making a full legal defense, powerful persons like himself should not be blocked from making such a defense, including by getting financial help that is given voluntarily.
On February 28, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced an intent to indict Netanyahu for bribery in three different public corruption affairs.
It has been unclear what deadline there was for Netanyahu to return the $300,000, but the petition will likely push off that deadline regardless of the outcome.
Back in February, the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel had sent a letter to Mandelblit demanding that he make Netanyahu return the funds within two weeks.
In other issues relating to Netanyahu’s legal problems, his defense lawyers have threatened to go to the High Court in the past, but had not actually followed up on the threat until now.
It is far from clear that the court would intervene to contradict the Comptroller’s Office on an issue regarding public corruption which appears to be firmly within its discretion.
In addition, the rejection came following a November 29 decision by the committee that had already rejected the prime minister’s request.
While Netanyahu’s legal team later claimed that it had new facts to share with the committee, the February decision indicated that the new facts rel
ating to the $300,000 already received merely made him vulnerable to having to return those funds.
The prime minister had received a preliminary sign-off by the Knesset for receiving the donations to his legal defense, but the state committee is the final authority on the issue.
Another aspect of February’s decision mentioned that Netanyahu and Milikovsky had joint business interests up until 2009, including Netanyahu’s early months as prime minister.
Furthermore, the decision connected Milikovsky indirectly to Thyssenkrupp and to David Shimron.
Thyssenkrupp is the German company wrapped up with Case 3000 –  the Submarines Affair – and Shimron, a lawyer and relative of both Netanyahu and Milikovsky, is suspected of facilitating bribery in the affair.
Though the prime minister is not a suspect in Case 3000, his spokesman issued a statement attacking the comptroller for mentioning Netanyahu and Milikovsky’s 10-year-old business interests. The statement called them irrelevant and deemed media reports trying to connect dots between Netanyahu and Case 3000 to be “fake news.”
To date, there has been no discussion of Netanyahu having committed a crime by receiving the $300,000, only that he must return the funds.
It is unclear what impact being blocked from receiving donations for his legal defense would have on Netanyahu’s posture toward the multiple public corruption cases he is facing if he does not succeed with the High Court petition.