Netanyahu and Attorney General Ask to Postpone Court Hearing on PM’s Conflicts of Interest

Netanyahu's attorney says two sides are making progress in solving disputed points regarding whether or not Netanyahu can deal with law enforcement while being charged with crimes

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next to Avichai Mendelblit during a cabinet meeting in 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next to Avichai Mendelblit during a cabinet meeting in 2015.Credit: Dan Balilty / AP
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the High Court of Justice on Tuesday to defer its hearing of a petition requesting that he immediately sign an agreement relating to his potential conflicts of interest in overseeing issues of law enforcement while being a criminal defendant. 

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Netanyahu wrote that his negotiations with Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit are at an advanced stage, with some disputed points still requiring time to be resolved. Mendelblit joined the request to postpone the hearing, which is planned for next Tuesday. The two sides were supposed to respond to the petition by this Tuesday.

In his appeal to the court, Netanyahu’s attorney Michael Rabilo wrote that the two sides had made progress in solving disputed points, but needed a bit more time in order to complete the negotiations. These are being held by Netanyahu’s representatives and Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber. Rabilo said that Zilber had sent a revised version of the agreement last Wednesday, following a meeting held by the two sides on August 24.

Rabilo noted Netanyahu’s trip to Washington, his five-day isolation after returning and his handling of the coronavirus crisis, as well as the Rosh Hashanah holiday, as factors that slowed down reaching an agreement. He repeated Netanyahu’s commitment not to deal with the appointment of a new attorney general, state prosecutor or police commissioner until the agreement is signed. Last July, Mendelblit forbade Netanyahu from dealing with issues relating to law enforcement, as part of a draft of a legal brief relating to his conflicts of interest.

The petition was submitted by the Movement for Quality Government and a group called Democracy Fortress, which demanded that Netanyahu be precluded from dealing with issues relating to law enforcement due to his impending trial. The prime minister has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, with the testimony phase of the trial slated to begin in January.

The Democracy Fortress group has told the court that it opposes the current request, saying that this was “a serious and objectionable development. The commitment he gave to the court, according to which he would sign a conflict of interest agreement prepared by the attorney general, was a condition for becoming prime minister despite the criminal charges he faces. Every day that passes without his signing this agreement is a serious slight to the Supreme Court.”

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