Netanyahu wants Olmert prosecutor Korb to defend him in hearing

Netanyahu wants Olmert prosecutor Korb to defend him in hearing

High-profile lawyer won’t say whether he’ll take the job offer; 2 weeks before PM is set to respond to pending corruption charges

State attorney Uri Korb, right, at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, February 8, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
State attorney Uri Korb, right, at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, February 8, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

High-profile attorney Uri Korb said Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested that he represent him at an upcoming hearing with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit over pending corruption indictments.

“I was asked for assistance. At this stage, I’m not going to be providing any help,” Korb told Channel 12.

He wouldn’t say exactly when the request was made and didn’t rule out taking the job.

Korb was a senior counsel for the State Attorney Office for 22 years handling high-profile cases, the report said.

He has experience sending politicians up the river, having prosecuted Ehud Olmert earlier this decade. He also was in charge of the case against the killers of Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir. He moved to private criminal practice over a year ago.

Korb’s interview comes barely two weeks before Netanyahu and/or his lawyers will attend a pre-indictment hearing with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on October 2. Mandelblit has recommended Netanyahu be charged with fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases, as well as bribery in one of them. The premier has denied any wrongdoing and claimed the investigations are part of an effort by political rivals, the media, the police and state prosecutors to force him from office.

Olmert, 73, was prime minister from 2006 to 2009. In July 2017, he was released from prison after serving a 16-month sentence on a corruption conviction.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert attends a celebration at Kibbutz Ramat Yochanan in northern Israel on March 31, 2018 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Some of Netanyahu’s legal team has left him over issues with payment, which the prime minister has attempted to fund via American supporters, to the chagrin of authorities here.

The prime minister had accepted $300,000 from businessman Nathan Milikowsky, which the Permits Committee in the State Comptroller’s Office said he must return.

On Friday Mandelblit said that he would allow Netanyahu to take a loan from a friend, American businessman Spencer Partrich, to help fund his legal defense.

October 2, the day of Netanyahu’s hearing, is also the day by which President Reuven Rivlin must announce whom he is tasking with forming a government in the wake of Tuesday’s election. Following the vote, unofficial results showed Netanyahu’s Likud party deadlocked with the centrist Blue and White party.

The preliminary results leave no candidate with a clear path to forming a government, and Netanyahu’s future as prime minister far from secure.

The results could also threaten Netanyahu’s defense strategy. While trying to form a government after April’s vote, Netanyahu was reported to have conditioned, or tacitly linked, entry to the post-election coalition on support for immunity arrangements, including possible new legislation, that would shelter him from prosecution as long as he remains in office.

Netanyahu has denied seeking such legislation but has refused to rule out seeking parliamentary immunity from his coalition partners should he be given the mandate to form a government again.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a press statement in Jerusalem, September 15, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The most serious of the three investigations into the prime minister, Case 4000, 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. That case includes a proposed bribery charge for both Netanyahu and Elovitch.

Another, Case 1000, involves accusations that Netanyahu received gifts and benefits from billionaire benefactors. Mandelblit said he intends to charge Netanyahu with fraud and breach of trust — the latter a somewhat murkily defined offense relating to an official violating the trust the public has placed in him.

A third, Case 2000, revolves around accusations Netanyahu agreed with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes to weaken a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth. In this case, Mandelblit will seek to also charge the premier with breach of trust, while Mozes will be charged with bribery. Mozes underwent his own pre-indictment hearing last month.

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