Attorney Yossi Ashkenazi joins Netanyahu’s defense team

Lawyer replaces Navot Tel-Zur, who stepped down in May over payment issues; is reportedly set to focus on cases 2000 and 4000

Attorney Yossi Ashkenazi (Courtesy HFN)
Attorney Yossi Ashkenazi (Courtesy HFN)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing possible crime charges, on Thursday added attorney Yossi Ashkenazi to his defense team.

Ashkenazi, a senior partner at the prominent Herzog, Fox & Neeman firm, will join Netanyahu’s lawyer Amit Hadad, and according to Haaretz will focus on cases 2000 and 4000 against the prime minister.

In May, one of Netanyahu’s attorneys, Navot Tel-Zur, stepped down from the defense team in the graft cases against the premier, following disagreements over his lack of payment.

Netanyahu’s defense team has been locked in a battle with the Permits Committee in the State Comptroller’s Office over his request to fund his defense with the help of overseas financiers. The committee has already rejected the request three times. The panel said it was inappropriate for non-Israeli benefactors to pay for the prime minister’s legal defense in a criminal case that alleges he received illicit gifts from wealthy individuals in Israel and abroad.

In late June, it was reported the comptroller could approve the request as a loan, despite the committee’s rulings.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has set pre-indictment hearings in Netanyahu’s three criminal cases for October 2-3.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on June 30, 2019. (Oded Balilty / POOL / AFP)

The attorney general stated his intention to indict Netanyahu for fraud and breach of trust in the three cases against him, and for bribery in one of them, in February, pending a hearing.

Case 1000 involves accusations that Netanyahu received gifts and benefits from billionaire benefactors, including Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in exchange for favors.

Case 2000 involves accusations that Netanyahu agreed with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes to weaken a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

And Case 4000, widely seen as the most serious against the premier, involves accusations that Netanyahu advanced regulatory decisions that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in the Bezeq telecom giant, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, in exchange for positive coverage from its Walla news site.

Netanyahu, who denies any wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a political witch hunt, is believed to be seeking legislation that could shield him from prosecution, or Knesset support for immunity and legislation that would take the High Court’s ability to strike down Knesset decisions.

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