Pro IQRA News Updates.
Israeli lawmakers introduced a bill on Monday that could allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep a $270,000 donation he received from a relative to pay for his legal fees while he battles corruption charges.
Netanyahu is being tried on charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals involving wealthy associates and influential media figures. He denies any wrongdoing and says the accusations are part of a “witch hunt” orchestrated by a biased media, law enforcement and justice system.
The bill is part of a proposed reform of the Israeli legal system by the new Netanyahu government. For more than two months, the plan has sparked fierce protests in Israel, the most in years.
Last year, the Israeli Supreme Court ordered Netanyahu to repay the $270,000 that his late cousin made for his and his wife’s legal expenses. Aside from a drawn-out corruption trial, the Netanyahu family has also had to deal with charges surrounding a number of defamation lawsuits filed against them as well as against them.
Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, have gained a reputation for enjoying lavish lifestyles, whether at taxpayer expense or thanks to the generosity of others. In one of the cases Netanyahu is accused of, he is suspected of receiving cases of cigars and champagne, as well as expensive jewelry for his wife, from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
Netanyahu has long been saddled with the image of a smoky, cigar-smoking socialite. Together with his wife, he is seen by many Israelis as detached from their daily struggles. A parliamentary committee’s recent decision approving new funding for the family’s private residences in a private coastal town and in Jerusalem, as well as increased spending on clothing, has only served to solidify that sentiment.
Monday’s bill, approved 53-49, came a day after a ministerial committee approved it as well. The bill still has to overcome many votes before it becomes law. But with Netanyahu’s government enjoying a majority in Parliament, it is more likely to be approved.
The bill would allow public servants to accept donations for legal or medical bills, despite objections from the country’s attorney general that this would foster corruption.
Netanyahu and his allies are pushing a series of proposals that would weaken the authority of the country’s Supreme Court and judiciary. His allies say the powers of unelected judges should be curtailed. Critics say the changes will give the prime minister too much power and erode the system of checks and balances. They also say that Netanyahu has a conflict of interest in pushing forward comprehensive reform while he is on trial.
Sara Netanyahu became caught up in the anti-reform protests last week, when demonstrators gathered outside a chic salon in Tel Aviv where she was getting her hair done. Dozens of police officers were called to escort her out of the salon and away from the mocking crowd.