Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a news conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil December 30, 2018.
(photo credit: TANIA REGO/COURTESY OF AGENCIA BRASIL/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again said that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit must not call him in for a pre-indictment hearing if a final decision on his cases is not made before the election, in a video released on social media Saturday.
In the 30-second clip, Netanyahu tells sort of a joke: “A man is walking down the street in a Middle Eastern country… with a prosthesis. Someone asks him: ‘What happened?’ He answers: ‘I was convicted of theft in the first trial… [and] I was declared innocent on appeal.’
“Can someone give him his arm back?” the prime minister asked.
The situation, he explained, is analogous to the possibility that Mandelblit may announce an indictment pending a hearing before the April 9 election.
“Can someone give you the election back?” Netanyahu said, addressing the public. “Don’t start a hearing before the election, if the hearing won’t be completed by the election.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid lampooned Netanyahu’s video, saying: “The prime minister of Israel thinks we’re in Saudi Arabia. Can someone bring back our sanity? If someone is indicted, he cannot run in an election.”
Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg commented after the video was released: “Netanyahu, calm down. No one is going to cut off your hand. You only go to jail for bribery.”
Police have recommended that Netanyahu be indicted now that they have concluded their three investigations. Case 4000 (the “Bezeq-Walla! Affair”) is considered to have 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 Aharonot-Israel Hayom Affair”) may still be closed entirely.
A poll by The Jerusalem Post last week found that 51% of voters thought Netanyahu should resign if Mandelblit indicts him pending a hearing before the election. A third (34%) said he would not have to resign, and 15% did not know or had no opinion.
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) called Netanyahu’s protestations disingenuous.
“Netanyahu knew the timetable,” she said. “He knew that the police and State Attorney’s Office recommended indicting him for one of the most serious crimes – bribery. He knew that Mandelblit’s timetable will require him to make decisions before the elections, and therefore, he called an early election.
“Now, he’s saying ‘You can’t keep to your timetable.’ It’s like killing your father and shouting ‘I’m an orphan,’” Yacimovich quipped.
State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan criticized coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud), following Amsalem’s statement last week that “if someone decided to indict a prime minister for these ridiculous cases, millions of people would not accept it.”
Nitzan said on Friday that claiming millions of people will not accept an indictment is “super problematic.” Mandelblit made similar comments on Thursday.Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.