Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
The Tel Aviv Economic Crimes Division, which has led the prosecution of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, late Wednesday rejected allegations by the prime minister that he needs a delay of his pre-indictment hearing because it had not turned over to him all necessary documentation.
Netanyahu’s lawyer Amit Hadad released a public video on Sunday asking Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to reconsider postponing his client’s pre-indictment hearing date for likely bribery charges.
The attorney-general rejected the prime minister’s request for a second postponement last Thursday, and the prosecution letter Wednesday doubled down on that rejection, saying the October 2-3 hearing date would stand.
Although rumors continued that the prime minister may petition the High Court of Justice to try to force Mandelblit to grant the second postponement – after he had already postponed the hearing once – Hadad did not mention this on Sunday.
Rather, Hadad sent a mixed message, saying that Netanyahu would come to the scheduled October 2-3 hearing date if necessary,
while simultaneously pushing again for Mandelblit to push off that date. With the hearing so far off, Netanyahu will also have additional chances to try to delay it, but the prosecution letter of Wednesday said that it viewed Hadad’s commitment to attend the October 2-3 hearing as binding and putting the issue to rest.
The battle over the date is highly significant because it allows Netanyahu to continue to dominate the news cycle with talking points that he is being victimized, and because once the actual date falls, it could determine whether the prime minister will need to resign upon being indicted.
If the current October 2-3 hearing date stands, Netanyahu will likely be unable to pass new laws to prevent his prosecution while acting as prime minister, before Mandelblit can indict him.
If the date is pushed off by even a few more months, he will have a better opportunity to pass such legislation.
Netanyahu requested a second delay last week, arguing that it is necessary in light of the unexpected new elections that will be taking place. But Mandelblit responded that the new elections do not justify a second delay, and the prosecution seconded this argument in its Wednesday letter.
Furthermore, Mandelblit previously 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 appears to be part of the decision not to grant Netanyahu a second delay.
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 alleged public corruption affairs.
Hadad added arguments on Sunday for why there should be a second postponement. He said that he has been reviewing the case file to prepare for the hearing and has already noticed that dozens of documents are missing. Netanyahu’s lawyer said that he cannot prepare for the case without these documents.
In its Wednesday letter, the prosecution said that nearly all of the documents Hadad claimed he did not have were included in the case file provided to him, if he would have reviewed it properly. The letter added that anything missing had been provided to Hadad this week.
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