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    Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 2nd left, his wife Sara Netanyahu, left, Senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner, 3rd left, US President's daughter Ivanka Trump, center, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, attend the opening ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, Monday, May 14, 2018

    US Paid Netanyahu-Linked Firm $150k Ahead of Embassy Transfer to Jerusalem

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    Middle East
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    According to Israeli media outlet Haaretz, the US government paid a generous sum of money to a law firm with close ties to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the month the American embassy was relocated to Jerusalem.

    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.

    READ MORE: Ex-Czech FM: 'Moving Embassy to Jerusalem Would be a Mistake'

    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.

    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.

    READ MORE: From Cigars to Submarines: Top 5 Corruption Cases Surrounding Israel's Netanyahu

    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.

    Moshe Kahlon, the Finance Minister, stated at the time that he would use his authority under the Planning and Building Law to waive the requirement for a building permit, but attorney, Shachar Ben Meir, asked Attorney General, Avichai Mendeblit not to allow the issuing of such a waiver to guarantee equality before the law.

    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.

    READ MORE: Islamic Cooperation Org Decries Paraguayan Embassy Move to Jerusalem — Reports

    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.”

    On May 14, the US Embassy was opened in Jerusalem with an official ceremony, attended by White House advisers, including President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, amid violent protests in the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the deaths of some 60 Palestinians.

    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.


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