The United States paid $150,000 to law firm E.S. Shimron, I. Molho, Persky & Co. for legal services provided to the US Consulate in Jerusalem from April 9, 2018 to May 14, which marks the period in which the embassy was transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Haaretz reported, citing an official US government website on federal government spending.
Two partners at the firm are believed to be close to the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu: David Shimron is his cousin and the family’s personal attorney, while Isaac Molho, Shimron’s brother-in-law, has served as Netanyahu’s personal envoy on numerous diplomatic missions.
According to Haaretz, the firm in question has represented the US Consulate “on matters concerning mostly planning and building economic compounds in Jerusalem and Israeli labor law for some 20 years,” but no other payments were recorded on the website.
U.S. consulate in #Jerusalem paid Netanyahu confidant's law firm $150k during the month in which the embassy transferred to the building. An embassy official: The U.S. has been using the firm's services 'for over 30 years' https://t.co/S0iL6yjA5m— Noa Landau (@noa_landau) 27 мая 2018 г.
Molho had reportedly signed the conflict of interest agreement before becoming the prime minister’s unpaid envoy, and pledged not to handle any issues concerning the US Consulate in Jerusalem at the time. After being investigated in an alleged corruption affair, dubbed “Case 3000,” concerning Israel’s purchase of submarines and missile boats from Germany, Molho, along with Shimron, left his diplomatic post.
As Israel prepared to turn the consulate into an embassy, it appeared that the relocation would require infrastructure work both on and around the building, which included the construction of a 3.2-meter-high perimeter wall to enhance the security of the diplomatic premises.
Unnamed sources in Netanyahu’s office earlier told Haaretz that the prime minister had not coordinated the granting of such a waiver to the Shimron, Molho law firm, adding that the office itself was unaware that the company represented the consulate’s interests, notwithstanding the fact that Molho mentioned it the conflict of interest agreement.
E.S. Shimron, I. Molho, Persky & Co. stated that neither Shimron, nor Molho dealt with affairs concerning the US consulate and referred the matter to the firm’s third partner, Orrin Persky, who told Haaretz that he was unaware of the details of the payments, but said the law firm is paid by the hour for services it provided to the consulate and “we are always dealing with what is on the agenda.”
Commenting on the issue, a US Embassy official told Haaretz, “As a general rule, we do not comment on matters relating to our retention of counsel.The U.S. Government has been using the services of Mr. Persky and his firm for ordinary business for over 30 years.”
Netanyahu’s office has stated that “it is absurd to claim that the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem and to implement the policy of the State of Israel for decades concerning the transfer of foreign embassies to Jerusalem, stems from the fact that the Shimron, Molho law firm is employed by the consulate. It should be noted that the prime minister did not deal with and did not intervene in the matter regarding building permits.”
Donald Trump, who decided to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem after recognizing the city as the capital of Israel in December 2017, missed the event. The US president’s controversial announcement was met with widespread criticism around the world, causing mass unrest across the Middle East, with thousands of people taking to the streets to protest against the motion.