Holding a pre-indictment hearing for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before April would be blatant intervention in the election by Attorney-General Avihai Mandelblit, Netanyahu said Thursday.
“For years, left-wing demonstrators and the media have been putting bullying and inhumane pressure on the Attorney General,” Netanyahu said in a video released by his spokesman. “They are trying to force the Attorney General to undertake gross interference in the election by inviting me to a [pre-indictment] hearing, when it’s known in advance that the hearing cannot be finished before the election.”
Such a move would be “unthinkable,” Netanyahu said, as it would mean “the public would only hear the claims of one side and not the responses of the other side.”
The prime minister argued that such responses have led to cases being closed many times, and claimed that it would be unprecedented for a politicians’ hearing to begin, but not be completed, before an election.
“That’s exactly the reason that the Left is trying to do the opposite, because its goal is clear: To try to depose a prime minister through a field trial and stealing an election from you, the citizens of Israel. As a Likud member said, they know that our team always wins, so they’re trying to pressure the referee to remove [leading soccer player Lionel] Messi from the game,” Netanyahu said.
The police have recommended that Netanyahu be indicted after three investigations ended. Case 4000 (the Bezeq-Walla! Affair) is considered the case with the strongest evidence, and may bring a bribery indictment. Mandelblit is expected to go after Netanyahu for breach of trust, but not bribery, in Case 1000 (the Illegal Gifts Affair). Case 2000 (the Yediot Ahronot-Yisrael Hayom Affair) may still be closed entirely.
Mandelblit went on the attack late Thursday against coalition chairman Dudi Amsalem (Likud) at a speech in Haifa for saying that millions would ignore his public corruption indictment decisions regarding Netanyahu.
"Unfortunately, lately we have heard groundless claims that law enforcement is biased, and along with these, irresponsible statements that 'millions of people will not accept' various decisions," said Mandelblit in response to Amsalem's statements.
Earlier at the same conference, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut responded to attacks of being activists against the judiciary by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and others, saying that there are no activists or conservative judges, only judges who do their best.
To hit the point home, she quoted US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts who rebuked US President Donald Trump for similar allegations, when Roberts said, "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges […] What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. […] independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for."
Shaked responded that she hasn’t seen the legal establishment defend judges she has appointed from incitement against them: “There is a harsh, difficult battle that is personal, against conservative judges. The silence of the judicial world is deafening. The principle of an independent court cannot be implemented selectively. Make your voices heard!”
Tension has mounted between the legal establishment and the politician sphere, especially the prime minister, as it became clearer this week that Mandelblit will announce an intent to indict Netanyahu for public corruption before the April 9 election, likely as early as February.The Jerusalem Post
reported a similar timeline in June, but that was before early elections were announced.
On Tuesday night, Mandelblit’s spokesman confirmed a Hadashot News report that Mandelblit met last week to consult with a mix of former attorney-generals, Supreme Court justices and head state attorneys: Yehuda Weinstein, Meir Shamgar, Aharon Barak, Moshe Lador, Elyakim Rubinstein, Dorit Beinisch, Edna Arbel, Gavriel Bach and Zvi Zamir.
According to Hadashot
, all those present unanimously said that the decision must be published pre-election and Mandelblit agreed with them.
Mandelblit apparently he felt the timing of elections was chosen in a way that took him for granted and that pushing off the decision would be interpreted as cowing in the face of political pressure.
Netanyahu’s lawyers slammed the possibility of a pre-election decision as an injustice.
They responded to the report saying that if Mandelblit issues a decision pre-election "it would cause injustice to the will of voters and gravely harm the democratic process."
Despite the above, Mandelblit’s spokesman said that the meeting with the top officials had been scheduled far in advance and had become an annual event, with this being the second meeting.
He also said that Mandelblit had not raised the question of the timing of his decision, but did tell those present that “the process of making decisions in cases would continue as is standard despite the dissolution of the Knesset.”
Even if Netanyahu wins reelection, a later final decision to indict Netanyahu in 6-12 months could lead to his forced resignation, though the question might need to be decided by the High Court of Justice.
Netanyahu himself has said that the law would not require him to resign before a final and unappealable conviction and many scholars support his argument.
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