Israel's Attorney General Agrees to Hold Netanyahu's Pre-indictment Hearing Over Four Days

The hearings, originally scheduled to last two days, will begin on Wednesday

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at an event marking 40 years to the Shomron Regional Council in the West Bank, July 10, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit agreed Sunday to a request from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's lawyers to hold four days of pre-indictment hearings in the corruption cases against the premiere.

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The hearing is scheduled to begin on October 2, and was originally scheduled to be held over two days. Netanyahu's legal team sent Mendelblit the request to lengthen the hearings on Thursday.

In a statement released by the Justice Ministry, Mendelblit wrote, "We will accede to the request to hold four days of hearings, so that all the arguments can be fully presented." Two days of pre-indictment hearings will be devoted to Case 4000, and the remaining two will be devoted to Cases 1000 and 2000, respectively.

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After being asked by the attorney general to submit the basis of his plea in advance of the hearings last week, Netanyahu sent Mendelblit one page void of explanations to back his statement that he is innocent.

"We regret that instead of complying with this directive, you have found it appropriate to submit a very short document with no actual content," Mendelblit's office wrote in a letter published Thursday.

Mendelblit's office criticized Netanyahu's document, writing that it "does not respect the hearing we are facing, and diminishes the great importance the attorney general attaches to it."

The letter was published hours after Netanyahu requested that his hearings be broadcast live. "After a torrent of slanted, partial leaks, it's time for the public to hear everything," Netanyahu said in a video he circulated. "Not only do I have nothing to hide," the prime minister continued, "I want everything to be heard. That is my request – a live broadcast of the hearing. This way, we will guarantee truth and justice."

Mendelblit's office rejected the request: "The purpose of the hearing is to provide an opportunity for a suspect who wishes to present their claims to law enforcement agencies, and to persuade the certified body that there is no justification to indict them. The hearing is not intended to persuade the public."

Later Thursday, Netanyahu's office responded to Mendeblit's letter, calling the decision "disappointing." 

"The court said the hearing was not intended to persuade the public, but over the past four years the investigations against Prime Minister Netanyahu have been accompanied by hundreds of criminal leaks from investigations, hostilities and rods aimed at the public, in order to create media alliance against the prime minister," Netanyahu's office said.

Mendelblit announced in February that he decided to indict the prime minister, pending a hearing, for fraud, bribery and breach of trust in the three criminal cases.

In Case 1000, the premier is suspected of taking gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan in return for political favors; in Case 2000, he is suspected of striking a deal with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes for favorable coverage in return for legislation to curb a rival newspaper; and in Case 4000, he is suspected of awarding privileges to telecommunications tycoon Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive coverage on his Walla news site.