Mandelblit says he can rule on Netanyahu indictment before elections
Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit informs Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's lawyers 'there is no impediment to making a decision' on the premier's probes before April 9, adding that suspending the legal process would 'violate the principle of equality before the law.'
Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit said on Friday there was no legal reason to prevent him from indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges before the April 9 elections should he decide such a move was warranted.
The prime minister, who is accused of corruption in three separate investigations, maintains that holding a hearing before the elections would have a detrimental impact on his electoral prospects. He denies any wrongdoing and has called the cases a witch-hunt.
Mandelblit said that suspending the legal process would "violate the principle of equality before the law" and interfere with "the public's right to know," adding that his team is still examining the case materials and intends to make a decision as soon as possible.
The attorney general said he had informed Netanyahu's lawyers "there is no impediment to making and publishing a decision, if there is any, to consider filing an indictment in the cases relating to the prime minister, or part of them, pending a hearing, even before the election date."
Netanyahu has said he would not bow out of the race if Mandelbit announces his intention to accept police recommendations to indict him.
In January, Netanyahu's lawyers met with Mandelblit in Jerusalem, in an effort to persuade him not to announce a hearing for the prime minister before elections.
According to the prime minister's legal team, this interim decision would influence the results of the elections, as Netanyahu would not have the chance to respond and present his own position concerning the evidence collected by the prosecution. This, they say, could mislead the voter, who will only hear one side of the argument.
In addition, Netanyahu harshly criticized Mandelblit over an interview the attorney general gave Channel 12 over a week ago, in which he commented on the investigations against the prime minister.
"The choice to cooperate with such a program, at such timing, is unprecedented in the history of Israeli justice and raises serious questions," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu also posted a video to social media, accusing the left wing of pressuring the attorney general to file an indictment against him. The video makes the accusation that "For three years now, the left and the media are persecuting the attorney general to force him to file an indictment at any cost." It shows protesters outside Mandelblit's home and outside the synagogue he prays in. The video concludes with the question: "Will they succeed?"
Netanyahu is suspected of wrongdoing in three separate cases: Case 1000 concerns allegations that the prime minister and his family received illicit gifts from wealthy donors, most notably billionaire film producer Arnon Milchan. Case 2000 concerns allegations that Netanyahu held talks with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher and owner Arnon Mozes about favorable coverage in return for legislation that would weaken Yedioth's rival, free daily Israel Hayom. Case 4000 concerns an alleged quid pro quo relationship between Netanyahu and investor Shaul Elovitch, who was the majority shareholder of Bezeq telecommunications and owner of the Walla! News site; Elovitch allegedly ensured Netanyahu and his family received favorable coverage on Walla! News in return for regulatory benefits for Bezeq, which sought to merge with satellite company Yes.
Associated Press contributed to this report.