Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting, March 10th, 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his first pre-indictment hearing for a likely indictment for bribery and other charges must be scheduled no later than July 10.
The hearing could also be set for earlier than that, but the deadline gives Netanyahu room to potentially form a new government beforehand, with the latest deadline for forming a government set at May 30.
Mandelblit also told Netanyahu that he would accommodate his request to hold off transferring all of the evidence for his public corruption cases to the prime minister’s lawyers and to all of the other related defendants until April 10, one day after Election Day.
Netanyahu had requested the delay out of fear that lawyers for other defendants might leak additional incriminating information about him to the media leading up to the election.
Mandelblit announced his intent to indict Netanyahu for bribery on February 28.
After months of speculation, Mandelblit announced an intent to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust i
n Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla affair; for breach of trust in Case 1000, the Illegal Gifts affair; and for breach of trust in Case 2000, the Yediot Aharonot-Israel Hayom Affair.
Case 2000 went down to the wire as Mandelblit overruled most of the prosecution who wanted a bribery charge.
The decision came despite a last minute effort by the Likud to get the High Court of Justice to block Mandelblit from announcing his decision before the elections.
However, the court’s most conservative justice, Noam Sohlberg, rejected the request as being filed too late.
Ironically, Sohlberg was part of a High Court panel which only a few hours earlier rejected an NGO’s attempts to compel Mandelblit to declare Netanyahu a suspect in Case 3000, the Submarines Affair.
Mandelblit has steadfastly resisted any attempts to link Netanyahu to case 3000.
Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White parties are neck and neck according to polls, and if the prime minister loses even a few seats due to the accusations against him for public corruption, it could turn the tide – although as of Monday, the indictment announcement did not seem to have hurt him in the polls.
Even if Netanyahu wins reelection, there is a strong chance that Mandelblit, after holding a series of pre-indictment hearings with Netanyahu’s lawyers, will issue a final decision to indict him in the next three to 12 months. This could lead the High Court to force the prime minister’s resignation if he does not voluntarily step down.
Sources close to Mandelblit have previously told The Jerusalem Post that if the attorney-general moved to indict Netanyahu for the serious charge of bribery – as opposed to a lesser charge – he would not defend Netanyahu before the High Court if a petition was filed to force the prime minister to resign.
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