Netanyahu’s request denied: State says friends can’t pay his legal bills

Netanyahu’s request to be exempted from a rule that prohibits private funds from going to prime ministers in order to pay his legal fees was rejected by a special committee.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be allowed to receive help from wealthy businessmen in the United States to pay off his  legal fees if he is indicted in any of a number of cases against him currently being considered by the attorney general, Israel’s media reported Wednesday.

Netanyahu had applied months ago to receive an exemption from the rule that forbids ministers and prime ministers from accepting private funding designed to prevent conflicts of interest.

The request went to a special permits committee which convened to rule on whether an exemption based on unique circumstances is justified. Basing its decision on earlier and similar cases, however, the committee, made up of a retired district court vice president and two former senior legal advisers in civil service, rejected the prime minister’s application.

As reported on the Globes news site, the committee determined that wealthy people should not finance court expenses arising from an investigation regarding suspected criminal acts in connection with other wealthy people.

All three cases that the Israeli police have recommended move forward with an indictment against Netanyahu involve alleged benefits given to powerful businessmen in return for expensive gifts (Case 1000) and favorable news coverage (Cases 2000 and 4000) respectively.

The prime minister’s lawyers did not provide the committee with any special reasons that would justify an exemption, the report said. While noting that the request named the two businessmen whom the prime minister intended to ask for help – U.S. tycoons Spencer Partrich and Nathan Milikowsky – the report noted that the request failed to include such basic information as how much money each would provide and for which cases.

Partrich is a property investor who has known Netanyahu for years, and Milikowsky is a former U.S. steel executive who is also the prime minister’s cousin. Both were questioned by Israeli Police as part of Case 1000.

The head of Netanyahu’s legal team, Navot Tel-Zur, has already asked the committee to reopen the application, as in the coming days, “all the reasons for the request … will be transferred, including precedents in which approvals were given to elected officials to finance their defense.”