Israeli PM Netanyahu allowed to keep $270,000 gift to ‘fight corruption charges’

Israeli cabinet ministers introduced a bill on Sunday that would allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep a $270,000 donation he received from a relative to pay for his legal bills as he battles corruption charges.

The bill is part of a proposed overhaul of Israel’s legal system by Netanyahu’s new government.

The plan has sparked more than two months of fierce protests in Israel, the largest seen in years.

Netanyahu has been on trial for almost three years on charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.

He denies wrongdoing and says the allegations are part of a “witch hunt” conducted by a biased media, law enforcement and justice system.

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Last year, Israel’s High Court ordered Netanyahu to pay back money owed to him by a late cousin to cover his and his wife Sarah’s legal expenses.

Sara Netanyahu became the target of protests last week when protesters gathered outside the Tel Aviv salon where she was getting her hair cut.

Hundreds of police officers were called in to escort her out of the saloon and away from the jeering crowd.

On Sunday, the ministerial committee for legislation approved a bill that would allow public officials to accept donations for legal or medical bills, despite vocal objections by the country’s attorney general that it would lead to corruption.

The Knesset, a committee in Israel’s parliament, also introduced bills to reduce the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review and give parliament the ability to override High Court decisions.

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Netanyahu’s allies say the changes are needed to reduce the power of unelected judges.

But critics say they would eliminate checks and balances, concentrate power with the ruling majority and discredit the Supreme Court. They also say that Netanyahu, as a criminal defendant, has a conflict of interest.

Those bills will now be brought before parliament for the first of three votes needed to pass into law.

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