With Netanyahu's Lawyers Still Unpaid, Pre-indictment Hearing Likely to Be Delayed

Netanyahu's lawyers are refusing to pick up the prosecution's massive evidence files until they see some money

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by his wife Sara, gestures at supporters at his Likud Party headquarters in Tel Aviv, April 10, 2019.
AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing is likely to be delayed, as his lawyers are refusing to pick up the evidence from the prosecution until they get paid.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit had said he would hold the hearing after the election but no later than July. At Netanyahu’s request, he also agreed that the prosecution wouldn’t hand the evidence over to the defense attorneys before the election, since Netanyahu was afraid the material would leak and be used against him during the campaign.

>> Netanyahu indictment: What are the charges and what happens next

With the election now over, his lawyers are supposed to come get the material and start preparing. But they haven’t been paid for their services to date, and are refusing to pick up the massive evidence files until they see some money.

Netanyahu wants to raise $2 million from two American businessmen – his cousin Nathan Milikowsky and his friend Spencer Partrich – to pay his lawyers. But the special government permits committee that must approve any government official’s request to accept money from outside sources has rejected his request twice. The committee, now with a different composition, has agreed to reconsider its decision yet again, but hasn’t set a date for doing so.

Yet Netanyahu says that even if this sum is approved, it wouldn’t cover the costs of preparing for the hearing. Instead, it would all go to pay his lawyers for the work they have already done in previous months. The lawyers in question are the five members of his current defense team – Navot Tel Zur, Amit Hadad, Tal Shapira, Pinhas Rubin and former Judge Oded Mudrik – plus two who are no longer working for him, Yaron Kosteliz and Keren Shapira.

Netanyahu’s hearing will be conducted by Mendelblit. But hearings for the other suspects in the cases against him – including Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch, his wife Iris Elovitch and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes – will be conducted by Liat Ben-Ari, who heads the taxation and finance department of the State Prosecutor’s Tel Aviv district office.

In the past, pre-indictment hearings in cases of a similar scope have dragged on for more than a year. Even in the case against Netanyahu’s wife Sara for illicit spending at the prime minister’s residences, the actual indictment was filed only nine months after Mendelblit first announced his intention to indict her, subject to a hearing.

Once Netanyahu’s hearing is over, Mendelblit will reconvene the approximately 20 prosecutors he has consulted on the case and make a final decision on whether to leave the indictment unchanged, soften the charges or scrap them altogether.