Likud Primaries voting booth.
(photo credit: ARIK BENDER/MAARIV)
The Likud has joined a petition filed to the High Court of Justice to block Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit from announcing his intent to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery before the April 9 Election Day.
The party announced its move Thursday morning, hours before Mandelblit was expected to publish his decision.
The petition attacked the attorney-general for deciding to make the announcement before Election Day, arguing that it is interference with the public's will and right to choose.
Mandelblit has defended his decision as simply following the natural course of the case and criticized Netanyahu for moving elections up only after the attorney-general had already announced he would make a decision shortly. Contacted by The Jerusalem Post about what time on Thursday the hearing would take place, the spokeswoman said she had also only just read about it in the news. No hearing has been set yet, but the story is developing.
On February 13, Mandelblit told Netanyahu that he has all the evidence he needs to decide the premier’s fate in the pending public corruption cases, rejecting claims that he had ignored evidence.
Mandelblit relayed the response to Netanyahu in a letter signed by his top aide, Gil Limon.
Netanyahu’s spokesman has continually blasted the idea that Mandelblit would determine the fate of the prime minister’s public corruption probes pre-election.
His lawyers previously sent the media a letter written 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 in order for him to make a decision.
Netanyahu responded, saying: "It is unfortunate that it appears that pressure from the Left and the media has 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 occur, 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 will 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 pre-election despite the general rule that major legal decisions should not be made leading up to 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 public-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 about the prime minister's public corruption cases under pressure from Netanyahu.The Likud also argued that Mandelblit could not publish his decision before elections as he would have had to do so before the political party lists were closed on February 21. They said that past examples where decisions had been made in election season - such as with Tzahi Hanegbi and various mayors - were both made before party lists were closed. Essentially, they argued that it was unfair to make the decision after party lists were closed and changes could no longer be made.
Citing a letter that the attorney-general's office sent to Fuchs on Wednesday, Mandelblit responded to the Likud that he has already explained the strong legal basis for not delaying his decision until after the election. In addition, he said that the petition was filed too late in the decision process, undermining the idea it was filed in good faith. Further, Mandelblit said that if the High Court does not issue an injunction imminently, he will issue his decision on Thursday even if no decision has been issued.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>