Charged for taking gifts from rich friends, Benjamin Netanyahu seeks funds for defense trial
"When the borders blur, you are blinded by the big money. You want more of it. Then all of a sudden the friend asks for a little favour and that poses a problem."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on trial for accepting $2,00,000 in gifts from two billionaire friends. But, that has not stopped him from seeking another gift from a wealthy friend to pay for his legal defense.
The awkward arrangement opens a window into the very ties with billionaire friends that plunged Netanyahu into legal trouble and sheds light on the intersection of money and Israeli politics. Netanyahu has asked an Israeli oversight committee to allow a 10 million shekel (USD 2.9 million) donation from Spencer Partrich, a Michigan-based real estate magnate, to fund his legal defense.
Because Partrich also happens to be a witness in one of the cases, the panel has asked the country's attorney general for his opinion on the matter. The request for financial aid from a friend is not illegal, and Israeli politicians have a long tradition of hobnobbing with wealthy Jewish supporters abroad. But to some, the optics of Netanyahu's request are sketchy.
"It is a problem that we have prime ministers who have ties to moguls," said Tomer Naor, of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, a good governance group. "When the borders blur, you are blinded by the big money. You want more of it. Then all of a sudden the friend asks for a little favour and that poses a problem."
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