PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU consults with Avichai Mandelblit..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers started to push for Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to delay his pre-indictment hearing for a likely indictment for bribery and other charges beyond the currently scheduled July 10 date. In the meantime, Mandelblit’s office transferred the full police evidence on Wednesday to Netanyahu and other likely defendants in his public corruption cases.
Mandelblit’s office has not yet made a decision on whether it will delay the pre-indictment hearing beyond July 10, though there were reports that he might consider September.
The July 10 date was set by Mandelblit on March 11 as a compromise to honor Netanyahu’s request to delay transferring that evidence out of the prime minister’s fear that it would be used to embarrass him during the election season.
July 10 was picked based on the assumption that the evidence would be transferred to Netanyahu one day after elections and that his lawyers would have three months to review the documents.
The July 10 deadline would have given Netanyahu ample time to form a new government since the deadline for forming a coalition is May 30.
But having won the race for prime minister and with the complex work of forming a coalition before him, Netanyahu appears to believe he now has an advantage and that Mandelblit will find it hard to reject his request for a delay – regardless of the compromise which was reached a month ago.
After months of speculation, Mandelblit announced on February 28 his intent to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla affair; for breach of trust in Case 1000, the Illegal Gifts affair; and for breach of trust in Case 2000, the Yediot Aharonot-Israel Hayom affair.
Regardless that Netanyahu was reelected, there is a strong chance that Mandelblit, after holding the series of pre-indictment hearings with Netanyahu’s lawyers, will issue a final decision to indict him in the next six to 12 months. This could lead the High Court to force the prime minister’s resignation if he does not voluntarily step down.
Sources close to Mandelblit have previously told The Jerusalem Post that if the attorney-general moved to indict Netanyahu for the serious charge of bribery – as opposed to a lesser charge – he would not defend Netanyahu before the High Court if a petition were filed to force the prime minister to resign.
Separately, it is expected that, with the elections concluded, Mandelblit will order the police to proceed more actively in probing the new evidence that arose about Netanyahu during the elections relating to Case 3000, the Submarine affair.
While Mandelblit felt it would have been unfair to proceed with the initial review during elections season, that is no longer an issue. Given that he is already moving toward indicting Netanyahu in three other cases, the attorney-general is not expected to permit the police to question Netanyahu under caution unless they find serious potential criminal conduct comparable to Case 4000.
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