Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday again asked the Permits Committee at the State Comptroller’s Office to allow him to receive outside funding for his legal expenses in a series of graft cases.
The committee has already rejected his request to accept donations from wealthy benefactors for his legal expenses on three occasions and instructed him to return funds he had already received.
State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman appointed retired judges Nehama Monitz and Shulamit Dotan to consider whether there was a significant enough change in Netanyahu’s legal circumstances to reexamine the request, along with Israel Tik, an educator and member of the Council for Higher Education, which Englman used to head.
According to Channel 12 news, Netanyahu’s lawyers have claimed Attorney General Avichai Mandeblit’s November decision to charge the premier in three criminal cases marked an important change in circumstances.
Netanyahu faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in all three probes, as well as bribery in one of them. He denies wrongdoing and claims the “trumped-up charges” are an effort by opponents to boot him from office.
His resubmission of the request to the Permits Committee came a day after Netanyahu requested parliamentary immunity from the Knesset, potentially delaying the filing of the indictment against him.
In September, Mandelblit said he would allow Netanyahu to take a loan from a friend, American businessman Spencer Partrich, to help fund his legal defense.
That announcement came after Englman approved Netanyahu’s request to receive funding from Partrich, conditioning his decision on Mandelblit, who concluded that there would be no conflict of interest involved in transferring funds for that purpose. The attorney general’s team said that Partrich had no significant business connections in Israel and that the loan could thus go ahead.
The issue of the funding for Netanyahu’s legal defense in cases he faces has been contentious. Over the past year, in addition to ordering the prime minister to return funds he received from his cousin Nathan Milikowsky, the Permits Committee has rejected Netanyahu’s demand to be allowed to receive financial aid — worth up to $2 million — for his expenses.
In denying Netanyahu the financial help, the Permits Committee had said it was inappropriate for wealthy benefactors to pay for the prime minister’s legal defense in a criminal case relating to his alleged receipt of gifts from such benefactors in Israel and abroad, so-called Case 1000.
It also said such aid should be sought only if the public servant needs the financial help — and asked Netanyahu to submit an assessment of his assets and net worth. The prime minister refused to do so.
Netanyahu is one of Israel’s richest politicians, with Forbes reporting last year he was worth NIS 50 million ($13.8 million).