A-G rejects Netanyahu’s request to delay October pre-indictment hearing

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said that the re-run elections did not justify a second delay.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and  Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit (photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/HAARETZ/MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit on Thursday rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for a second delay to his pre-indictment hearing beyond October 2-3.
Netanyahu requested a second delay on Wednesday, arguing that it was necessary in light of the unexpected new elections that will be taking place on September 17.
But Mandelblit said that the new elections did not justify a further delay.
Furthermore, he said that he had already agreed to delay the hearing until October 2-3, even though his pre-indictment announcement dated back to February 28 and the original hearing date was set for July 10.
When Mandelblit agreed to postpone the July 10 date, he also agreed to postpone hearings for other defendants in the prime minister’s cases until August 15.
However, they are not getting any further delays, which also appeared to be part of the decision to not grant Netanyahu a second delay.
Mandelblit announced the rejection in the context of trying to fight off a petition to the High Court of Justice by the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel, which had demanded that he stick to his original July 10 hearing date.
The attorney-general is expected to file an indictment against Netanyahu for bribery and breach of public trust sometime in the next six months relating to three separate public corruption affairs.
His rejection of the prime minister’s request for an extension was striking in how quickly he brushed it off, appearing to try to signal his adamant position on the issue after showing flexibility on the first postponement.
Netanyahu responded to the rejection with a counterattack, claiming that Mandelblit and the state prosecution had allowed a two year delay of a pre-indictment hearing in a case against a judge.
A spokesman for Netanyahu said it was unfair that for such a simple case of a building violation, a judge could get a two-year extension for his pre-indictment hearing, whereas the prime minister’s much more complex case get a much shorter extension.
“This is the definition of injustice. It is thoroughly shocking,” said the prime minister’s statement.
Following this counterattack, Justice Ministry Spokesman Moshe Cohen issued a clarification to explain why Mandelblit viewed the analogy as out of place.
Cohen said that it was true that the prosecution told Judge Ziad Falah two years ago that it was considering indicting him for a low-grade building-zoning violation.
However, Cohen said that the pre-indictment hearing took place through the filing of legal briefs (waiving an oral argument) within only one month of the pre-indictment announcement, much sooner than the seven months that Netanyahu has been given.
Further, he said that following the pre-indictment hearing, responsibility for a final decision was transferred to the land appeals department.
He also explained that building-zoning crimes in the land appeals department are considered extremely low-grade offenses and a low priority.
This means that typically, these cases take much longer to resolve for all suspects who might be indicted, not just for that judge, said Cohen, noting that the prosecution does not invest major resources in dealing with the cases.
In contrast, a justice ministry spokeswoman clarified that the case against Netanyahu, including bribery charges, was far more serious.
Due to this, his case was on a regular track for a bribery case, not the extremely delayed track for unimportant building-zoning cases.
Meanwhile, Channel 12 reported that billionaire Arnon Milchin – a major player in Case 1000 against the prime minister, the Illegal Gifts Affair – told police that the Netanyahu family not only asked him for huge volumes of expensive champagne and cigars, but also for coats.
Netanyahu’s spokesman responded that the leaks from police testimony, with this leak being the 125th leak against Netanyahu, are a crime and must end.
He added that the Netanyahus also gave gifts to Milchin.