Netanyahu's Lawyers to Tell Court They Lack Investigative Material

Prime minister’s attorneys demand to see material that the prosecution considers internal correspondence, which it says it’s not required to turn over

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Prime Minister Netanyahu, right, at the Jerusalem District Court.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with his lawyers at the Jerusalem District Court, May 2020.Credit: Amit Shabi
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

The Jerusalem District Court will hear complaints Sunday morning by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorneys in the cases of bribery and breach of trust against him that the prosecution has not handed over all the investigative materials the defense has asked for.

Netanyahu and his co-defendants in the Bezeq-Walla case, Shaul and Iris Elovitch, will not be present at the hearing.

In recent months the prime minister’s attorneys, Boaz Ben Tzur and Amit Hadad, and the Elovitchs’ attorneys, Jacques Hen and Michal Rosen, have demanded to see material that the prosecution considers internal correspondence of the State Prosecutor’s Office, which it says it is not required to turn over to the defense. The defense attorneys, however, argue that the materials might assist them in mounting a more effective defense of their clients, and they should therefore have access to them.

The judges who will hear the matter are Rivka Friedman-Feldman, Moshe Bar-Am and Oded Shaham. The hearing is deemed technical and procedural in nature, which puts it in the same class as scheduling changes for hearings, for example.

November 29 is the deadline for the defense to submit its preliminary abuse-of-process arguments, such as its claim of discriminatory prosecution, as it attempts to get the charges dropped entirely. On that date, the judges will ask the defense team to submit its responses to the charges, and on December 6 a hearing will take place on the defense’s response to the charges. The defense is expected to request more time between hearings and to postpone their submission of a response.

Meanwhile on Thursday, the High Court heard a petition demanding Netanyahu be committed to uphold a binding conflict of interest agreement.

The purpose of the agreement is to guarantee that Netanyahu does not use the power of his office to influence his trial on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

The discussion focused on whether the agreement submitted last week by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is binding in its entirety.

Mendelblit argues that the prime minister must comply with its terms. Netanyahu has informed the court that he objects to some of them. The court must decide whether to rule on the wider question of the authority of the agreement of to confine itself to the articles in it that Netanyahu disputes.

Justice Ministry representative Yonatan Berman asked the justices to rule that the agreement is binding on the prime minister and the cabinet before turning to Netanyahu’s objections. “It has been established that the attorney general’s briefs are binding,” Berman said.

“An attempt is being made to challenge the attorney general’s authority. Will we convene any time a cabinet member challenges it? This must be resolved,” Berman said.

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut asked the sides to consider whether Mendelblit’s agreement was binding or only advisory; whether certain articles should be removed, and whether the agreement should apply to ministers working closely with Netanyahu.

The petition was submitted by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel. Hearing it are, in addition to Hayut, Justices Hanan Melcer and Neal Hendel.

Representing Netanyahu, attorney Michael Rabello said only a few points in the agreement were in dispute.

“When the prime minister tells the court he accepts the agreement, nothing could be more binding. The debate should be on these points and not whether the brief is binding. We accept 80 percent” of Mendelblit’s document, he said.

Mendelblit’s agreement would bar Netanyahu from involvement in judicial or police appointments; matters involving witnesses or other defendants in his trials and legislation that could affect the legal proceedings against him. He would also be prohibited from involvement in several areas under the ambit of the Communications Ministry, personally or through proxies. Netanyahu objected to many of these restrictions, prompting Mendelblit to ask the High Court to rule on the petition.

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