Former Senior Jurists Urged Attorney General to Decide Whether to Indict Netanyahu Before Election, Report Says

According to report, Avichai Mendelblit was told by those present that announcing a decision about whether to indict Netanyahu, subject to a hearing, before the election was an 'obligation to the public'

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit attending a state audit committee meeting at the Knesset, Jerusalem, December 3, 2018.
Emil Salman

Former senior members of the legal system have told Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit he must announce his decision regarding Netanyahu’s cases before the election, the Israel Television News Company reported on Tuesday.

The retired jurists reportedly convened last week during an annual conference held in a hotel near Jerusalem. According to the report, Mendelblit told those present that announcing his decision to indict Netanyahu, subject to a hearing, before the election was an “obligation to the public.”

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“I’ll make supreme efforts to complete the work soon,” he was quoted as saying, predicating this on no new developments surfacing in any of the probes.

The news report indicated that the meeting was attended by former attorneys general Aharon Barak, Elyakim Rubinstein, Yitzhak Zamir and Yehuda Weinstein, as well as former state prosecutors Moshe Lador, Dorit Beinisch and Edna Arbel.

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Former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair, who sometimes criticizes Mendelblit in Facebook posts, did not attend the convention.

The Justice Ministry said of the report that that the attorney general holds an annual meeting with former attorneys general and state prosecutors, as well as the state prosecutor and various senior legal advisers.

"The meeting was set several months ago and was held for the second consecutive year. Different legal issues which are on the public agenda came up at the meeting," said the Justice Ministry statement. 

"Among the topics discussed was the date of deciding on the Prime Minister’s cases," the statement continued. "The AG did not bring this topic up on his own and the meeting was not planned around this issue. The AG referred to it as part of his review, explaining that the process continues despite the dissolution of the Knesset. The AG did not commit to a date for handing down his decision,” it concluded.

Netanyahu’s lawyers also addressed the report, saying they believe there will be no hearing since nothing illegal transpired, and added that it is "undemocratic" to begin a hearing before an election if it cannot be finished before the election takes place. 

“It’s unthinkable that the public will hear only one side. In many cases, hearing the second side led to the case being closed. Holding such a hearing will distort voters’ choices and will seriously harm the democratic process.”

At a press conference in Brazil, Netanyahu clarified that he would not resign if summoned to a hearing before the election, claiming a prime minister does not have to resign before such a hearing is completed. “I think the logical and decent thing is not to start a hearing process before the election if you can’t complete it. I think this would be a blatant interference in the democratic process. It’s not a legal matter, it’s only common sense.”