Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit (R).
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A second deadline set by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit passed on Monday with no deal for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about when his pre-indictment hearing on bribery charges will be held.
Mandelblit has been adamant that the hearings would start no later than July 10 following his February 28 announcement of his likely intent to indict Netanyahu.
Netanyahu’s lawyers have alternately pressed for delays of a few months to as much as a year.
They have argued that since Netanyahu faces three massive complex cases, that July 10 would not give them even close to enough time to prepare.
Other defendants in some of the cases have also requested a postponement of the pre-indictment hearings.
Despite media reports that Mandelblit would be forced to easily fold to Netanyahu’s demands for a postponement following the prime minister’s resounding reelection in April, until now the attorney-general has appeared to hold the line.
He does not want to appear to be giving the prime minister unusually favorable treatment because of his high office.
At the same time, by allowing an initial May 10 deadline and now Monday’s second deadline for setting a pre-indictment hearing pass, it looks more and more like Mandelblit will agree to some amount of a delay.
Any delay is important as it will give the incoming government more time to pass laws that could make it harder to prosecute Netanyahu or harder to get him to resign.
Also on Monday, the State Comptroller Committee set Friday as the deadline for Netanyahu to turn over his financial statements as it considers whether he can receive donations from tycoons like his cousin, Natan Milikovsky, for his legal defense of public corruption charges.
If Netanyahu does not turn over his financial statements by Friday, the committee said they will rule against him.
Netanyahu claimed that the committee’s decision harmed his rights to a fair trial and to finance his legal defense.
He cited that he was up against a prosecution and police establishment which had spent millions on probing him.
Moreover, he said that he should not have to turn over his financial statements to the committee, accusing the committee of leaking negative aspects of his personal finances to the media.
In an earlier exchange about his finances, after Netanyahu accused the committee of holding his legal defense hostage, the committee responded by publicizing investment links he had to Milikovsky, which have raised the specter of a new potential criminal probe.
Even the entire current debate between Netanyahu and the committee come following the initial rejection of Netanyahu’s request.
The committee also previously told the prime minister to return $300,000 to donors which he had received without the committee’s approval.
This led Netanyahu to file a petition in March with the High Court of Justice to overturn the committee’s initial decision.
The High Court pressed the committee to further discuss the issue with Netanyahu.
However, even after further discussions, the committee said it would not let Netanyahu receive donations if he did not commit to spending a minimum amount of his own funds.
Last week, Netanyahu finally agreed to an interim arrangement to pay some of his bills to some of his lawyers from his own personal funds.
Since that announcement, it has appeared that lawyer Amit Hadad has taken the lead on the case back from lawyer Navot Tel Tzur, who is rumored to be likely to quit from representing the prime minister because of unpaid bills.
There have also been philosophical and tactical disagreements between Hadad and Tel Tzur about how to handle the case, with Hadad enjoying better relations with the state prosecution and Tel Tzur being more combative.
Despite Netanyahu’s readiness to pay some of his own legal fees, the committee seems to view a full financial disclosure as an additional precondition to his receiving legal help from donors.
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