Lawyer for Princess Diana and Deborah Lipstadt advising Netanyahu on cases
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Lawyer for Princess Diana and Deborah Lipstadt advising Netanyahu on cases

Leading British litigator Anthony Julius providing legal counsel to PM, who’s facing criminal charges over alleged quid pro quo to sway media coverage

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Anthony Julius. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Anthony Julius. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Leading British lawyer Anthony Julius has been providing legal advice to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the criminal cases against him in which he faces pending charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery, The Times of Israel has established.

Julius, who is deputy chairman and heads the litigation practice at UK law firm Mishcon de Reya, is one of several non-Israeli legal experts who have been providing legal counsel to the prime minister in the cases, sources in both the UK and Israel said this week.

Earlier this month, during pre-indictment hearings, Netanyahu’s lawyers presented a legal opinion from five American professors, including Alan Dershowitz, arguing that investigating the swaying of media coverage as a criminal offense — the heart of Case 4000, the most serious case against the prime minister — constitutes a danger to democracy.

Julius, who specializes in the fields of defamation, international trade disputes, and, notably, media law, is also understood to be advising Netanyahu on Case 2000. In both cases, Netanyahu is alleged to have held criminal interactions with prominent owners of Israeli media outlets.

Asked about the details of the consultations as well as whether and how much he was being paid, Julius told The Times of Israel that he couldn’t comment on whether he has had any interaction with the Israeli prime minister. A spokesperson for Netanyahu also declined to comment on the consultations with Julius.

Anthony Julius outside his office in central London, Friday July 12 1996. (AP Photo/Charles Miller)

A commercial litigator, Julius rose to prominence as the divorce lawyer for Diana, Princess of Wales. He had already made a name for himself representing several high-profile clients in libel cases, including now-disgraced British media proprietor and member of Parliament Robert Maxwell, who died in 1991. In 1996, he represented Jewish Historian Deborah Lipstadt in her successful legal defense against Holocaust denier David Irving, a case which was turned into the 2016 movie “Denial.”

“Anthony is a trusted advisor to his often high-profile clients, and typically acts for ultra-high net worth families and individuals in personal and business disputes,” his profile on Michcon De Reya’s website reads.

A prominent patron of several Jewish charities and organizations, Julius is also an accomplished author of several books, including the 900-page “Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Antisemitism in Britain.”

Netanyahu faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in three cases, as well as a bribery charge in one of them, Case 4000.

That case concerns suspicions that Netanyahu pushed regulatory decisions financially benefiting Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq telecommunications group, in return for ongoing positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit held a pre-indictment hearing for the premier, having previously announced his intention to charge him in all three cases.

A composite image of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch. (Flash90; Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

Mandelblit’s lengthy description of Netanyahu’s alleged illicit dealings with Elovitch took up the majority of a 57-page document released in February, in which the attorney general set out the allegations that prompted him to announce a pending criminal indictment against the prime minister. Netanyahu is suspected of an illicit quid pro quo with Elovitch that continued for about four years until early 2017. The alleged understanding saw Elovitch ensure favorable coverage of Netanyahu at Walla, Israel’s second-largest Hebrew-language news site, and critical coverage of Netanyahu’s rivals, especially in the 2013 and 2015 election periods.

The second case against the premier, Case 2000, revolves around accusations Netanyahu had discussed with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes a deal in which the premier would act to hobble the circulation of a pro-Netanyahu rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth. In this case, Mandelblit will seek to charge the premier with breach of trust, while Mozes will be charged with bribery, pending a hearing.

The third, Case 1000, involves accusations that Netanyahu received gifts and benefits from billionaire benefactors. Mandelblit said he also intends to charge Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust.

The prime minister denies the allegations and claims to be the victim of a witch hunt involving the opposition, the media, the police and state prosecutors.

Mandelblit is expected to announce his decision on charges by mid-December.

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