The state prosecution and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lead lawyer, Boaz Ben Tzur, battled on Thursday over charges of potential conflict of interest and witness obstruction.
According to Deputy State Attorney Liat Ben Ari, a letter she sent to Ben Tzur suggested that he has had improper contact with witnesses for the state prosecution.
Ben Tzur sent a reply accusing the prosecution of the same.
Prior to joining Netanyahu’s legal team in the fall of 2020, Ben Tzur had served as a lawyer for two key prosecution witnesses in Case 1000, in which Netanyahu is accused of receiving illegal gifts.
The two witnesses are billionaire tycoon Arnon Milchin, and Milchin’s assistant Hadas Klein.
Milchin is at the center of Case 1000, as the main purveyor of gifts to Netanyahu as well as making various requests of the prime minister that the prosecution has jumped on as presenting a conflict of interest, fraud and breach of public trust.
Some of Milchin’s statements have been damaging to Netanyahu’s case, while Klein’s have been entirely damaging since she has provided evidence that directly undermines his defense that expensive cigars and other items received were gifts.
Many legal scholars thought that Ben Tzur’s prior representation of Milchin and Klein should preclude him from representing Netanyahu.
However, Ben Tzur committed to representing Netanyahu only in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla Affair, and aspects of Case 2000, the Yediot Ahronot-Israel Hayom Affair, which do not pertain to Milchin or Klein.
Case 1000 would be handled by lawyer Amit Hadad.
Accordingly, the prosecution did not object to his involvement in the case.
Yet the prosecution’s letter on Thursday accused Ben Tzur of contacting both Milchin and Klein, and suggesting to them that they make contact with Netanyahu.
Moreover, the prosecution threatened Ben Tzur that such conduct could lead to disciplinary action for conflict of interest.
In addition, Milchin and Klein were interviewed by the police regarding their conversations with Ben Tzur.
In response, Ben Tzur said that the prosecution was improperly trying to undermine his ability to represent Netanyahu and to intimidate the defense.
He admitted to contacting Milchin, though not Klein, and said that any contact he had with Milchin did not relate to his cases concerning Netanyahu.
With Netanyahu’s final pretrial hearing coming up before the Jerusalem District Court on Monday, it was unclear what impact the latest controversy would have.