No one knows whether Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit will announce his expected final indictment decision of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November or December, but a few weeks in either direction could decide the fate of the nation.
Mandelblit has made it clear that he will decide before December 15, when State Attorney Shai Nitzan steps down.
He does not want the decision delayed by having to bring a new state attorney up to speed, and he wants the decision framed as one made by him with Nitzan’s backing.
But this is one instance when a few weeks really do make a difference.
Netanyahu will likely need to give back the mandateto form a government by October 24, at which time Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz will have 28 days to form a government.
What if Mandelblit issues a final indictment of Netanyahu for bribery during that 28-day period?
Such a decision might finally bring the top Likud echelon to replace Netanyahu with a new leader so that they could form a unity government with Gantz and share power.
Even if the Likud did not remove Netanyahu, a final indictment could bring an immediate petition to the High Court of Justice for his removal.
No one knows how the High Court would rule, but even having such a proceeding hanging over Netanyahu could also change the dynamic.
On the other hand, what if Mandelblit reduces the bribery charge to mere breach of trust and tosses out some of the other breach of trust charges?
Might that lead Gantz to be ready to agree to a rotation arrangement sharing the prime minister’s chair with Netanyahu, even though he has adamantly refused to do so until now?
Might reduced charges give Gantz an opening to tell his voters that his vow not to join Netanyahu was based on his facing serious charges like bribery, and not lesser charges?
Now imagine the scenario where Mandelblit does not decide during that 28-day period.
Does either the Likud or Gantz blink, worried that Mandelblit has not ruled their way as they had hoped?
Ironically, if Gantz does not form a government in 28 days, the final period of 21 days when anyone in the Knesset can try to form a government almost exactly matches up to the December 15 deadline.
So chances are that by the end of the 21 days, Mandelblit’s decision will be out.
Will the competing parties ignore each other until then and just wait for that decision to decide things at the last moment?
And if they wait that long and suddenly one side blinks and a national-unity government becomes theoretically possible, will there be enough time left to pull off the negotiations?
Probably because of this last question, Mandelblit will issue the decision no later than early in December or whatever date he thinks would give the Knesset enough time to cut a deal to avoid a third election within a year.
But all of this just represents politics interfering with the law.
Mandelblit is also performing some legal gymnastics right now to come up with a decision he believes is right and balanced, but will invariably upset large sectors of Israeli society no matter what.
If he does not reduce any charges, the Right will say that the pre-indictment hearings were not serious, and point to lead prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari skipping the last two hearings added at the last minute for a pre-planned vacation.
If he reduces the bribery charges or tosses out some of the other lesser charges, he will anger the Left. They will say that these are more favors for Netanyahu after Mandelblit already vetoed Ben-Ari’s desire to indict Netanyahu for bribery in three cases (as opposed to in only one), and will say the attorney-general should have issued this decision months ago.
Balancing these massive pressures, he may ignore the political timeline.
So as the politicians on both sides hedge, hoping that soon the picture will be clear and to their advantage, they must also prepare for the scenario where they need to decide their final strategies without knowing Mandelblit’s final decision.