Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he has all the evidence he needs to decide the premier’s fate in the pending corruption cases, rejecting claims that he had ignored evidence.
Mandelblit relayed the response to Netanyahu in a letter signed by the attorney-general’s top aide, Gil Limon.
Netanyahu’s spokesman has continually condemned the idea that Mandelblit would determine the fate of the prime minister’s probes prior to the election.
The premier’s lawyers previously sent the media a letter to Mandelblit demanding that 66 additional witnesses be interviewed – which would require delaying the attorney-general’s decision.
Mandelblit’s response indicated that many of the 66 witnesses listed had been questioned by police, and that he had already interviewed anyone he needed to make a decision.
He did not commit to a set date for his decision, but has made it clear that he will issue a decision before the April 9 vote.
Netanyahu said he was displeased with the attorney-general’s letter.
“It is unfortunate that it appears that pressure from the Left and the media have caused the attorney-general to rush and to announce a hearing [regarding a potential indictment] before the elections, though the truth will not come to light until the process of the hearings occurs, which will be after the election.”
He added that he was disappointed that Mandelblit turned down his public request to confront the state’s witnesses who have accused him of public corruption as well as his request that the prosecution question dozens of additional witnesses who could prove his innocence.
Netanyahu said it was unfair that he would be tarred with the announcement of an intent to indict when he assumed that the case would be closed with no indictment, as has occurred with some other public officials.
In a separate letter to Netanyahu on February 1, Mandelblit explained why it was legal for him to decide Netanyahu’s fate before the election despite the general rule that major legal decisions should not be made leading up to an election.
While the basis for the general rule is to avoid any appearance of bias toward any political party, Mandelblit explained that in this case, delaying the decision would have shown bias in favor of Netanyahu.
He said that chronologically speaking, his prosecution team first publicly announced that it was beginning its final meetings to make a decision in the corruption cases, and that only after that announcement did Netanyahu decide to call early elections.
Accordingly, he said it would be inappropriate to appear to delay the decision under pressure from Netanyahu.