A six-point guide to understanding Netanyahu's indictment case

What might happen next?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting, December 23rd, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting, December 23rd, 2018
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit is expected to announce an intent to file an indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sometime in February – pre-election. What does that mean and what might happen next?
1. Intent to indict: The announcement of an intent to indict is not a final indictment. The prime minister will have an opportunity to make his case before Mandelblit to change his mind and drop the case. Some top public officials have changed other attorney-general’s minds in the past from their original announcement.
2. Pre-indictment hearing: If nothing unusual happens, Mandelblit will hold a pre-indictment hearing with Netanyahu’s lawyers sometime between May and August. However, in rare cases some public officials in the past have asked for their pre-indictment hearing to be expedited or waived their right to a pre-indictment hearing to move to a final indictment and an expedited trial to remove the cloud of criminal charges. Netanyahu is not expected to do this because it could cut short his term as prime minister, but you never know.
3. Final indictment: If nothing unusual happens, then about 3-6 months after the pre-indictment hearing, Mandelblit will close the case or file a final indictment. Probably at latest this would be in February 2020, but as discussed, it could be a good bit earlier. This is the key moment because every minister in recent decades who was indicted was forced to resign by Supreme Court precedent – including ministers like Avigdor Liberman in 2012, who had promised they would never resign until convicted.
4. When might a PM be forced to resign: The law has never been finally determined as to whether the prime minister must resign following an indictment like other ministers or whether he can wait until an unappealable final conviction. But the Jerusalem Post has learned that Mandelblit believes, that for a severe bribery charge like in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla! Affair, there is a strong chance that the Supreme Court would order the prime minister to resign if he did not go quietly.
5. Trial: Depending on whether Netanyahu wants to expedite or slow-walk the trial, whether he is still prime minister, whether there are plea bargain talks and whether he is charged in two of the cases, which the Post can confirm to a near certainty, versus all three of the cases (Case 2000 the Yisrael Hayom-Yediot Ahronot Affair is still up in the air,) the trial could start within a couple of months of the final indictment decision or up to a year later.
6. Conviction/Jail: Any conviction or jail sentence would likely be years later. The first indictment against former prime minister Ehud Olmert was filed in 2009, but that trial went until 2012 and the first major conviction against him did not come until 2014 with him not going to prison until 2016. Olmert’s maximum sentence for bribery could have been 7 years. In the end, he received around 2.5 years. It is too early to predict for Netanyahu, but if convicted of bribery in Case 4000, he could face a similar situation to Olmert.