Netanyahu’s Lawyers Ask AG to Put Off Hearing for at Least One Year

The attorney general is expected to demand a hearing by the end of September

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to a ceremony at Mount Hertzl for Memorial Day, Jerusalem May 8, 2019.
Heidi Levine/Reuters

Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers have asked Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to put off the hearing in the three corruption cases against the prime minister for at least a year because of the huge amount of material to be read to prepare Netanyahu properly.

Mendelblit, who returned Sunday from a trip to Japan, had asked the lawyers to hold the hearing by July 10, but is expected to agree to a hearing held by the end of September.

>> Read more: Netanyahu tries to buy time, but can't avoid the court | Analysis 

Monday was the deadline Mendelblit had set for coordinating a date, but an attorney for Netanyahu, Amit Hadad, only collected the evidentiary material last week after an interim arrangement to pay his fee was made.

On Monday, Hadad said Netanyahu should receive more time because three cases were in question: the lavish-gifts affair and the two cases in which Netanyahu allegedly offered benefits for favorable news coverage.

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Last week Hadad said the quantity of material in the files was enormous. “The time frame given for the hearing is unreasonable,” he said. “Even if the issue of funding had been resolved months ago, we still would have asked for the date to be put off.”

According to Netanyahu spokesman Ofer Golan, the files were collected by Hadad after an arrangement was made to pay an advance on his fee, but no such arrangement has been made for the other attorneys: Navot Tel Zur, Tal Shapira and Pinhas Rubin. So for now Hadad is representing Netanyahu by himself.

On Sunday the permits committee at the State Comptroller’s Office told Tel Zur that if its demand to receive more information about the prime minister did not receive a response within a week, Netanyahu’s request to accept private funding for his defense would be denied. This committee determines whether certain actions by politicians constitute a conflict of interest.

The committee seeks more information about Netanyahu’s assets in Israel and abroad, as well as information about the nature of his relationship with U.S. businessman Spencer Partrich, how much money Netanyahu already owes his lawyers, and why Netanyahu, who is known to be wealthy, needs outside help to fund his defense.

The evidence in the three cases against the prime minister has been available to the defense attorneys since April 10, the day after Israel’s general election. All the lawyers in the two favorable-news-coverage affairs agree that three months between accessing the evidence and the hearing is insufficient.

The attorneys for Shaul and Iris Elovitch, who are suspected of bribing Netanyahu in return for favorable coverage on the Walla website, have asked to postpone the couple’s hearing until the end of September.

The amount of time allotted the defense attorneys in the Netanyahu cases is shorter than in other big cases against public figures. The lawyers for the head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Avigdor Lieberman, received nine months to prepare for his first hearing in the case involving the ambassador to Belarus that took place in January 2012. The hearings ended in May that year and a decision in the case was made in December.

In the Yisrael Beiteinu corruption case, a former deputy minister, Faina Kirschenbaum, was summoned to a hearing in September 2016, but the first hearing only took place in May 2017.

In the Holyland corruption case, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked to delay his hearing several times until he finally gave up his right to a hearing. Nine months passed between the prosecution’s announcement that it planned to charge Olmert and the indictment.