Analysis

Netanyahu Tries to Buy Time, but Can't Avoid the Court

The real question is what happens first: Will Netanyahu be protected from facing the law or will he be indicted?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in Jerusalem, February 18, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

A top defendant who would not have played a dirty game, who would have refrained from using his political power to avoid getting indicted, who would have paid his attorneys out of his own pocket, who would not have requested to postpone the presentation of evidence against him and who would have ensured that it be gathered in a timely manner after the election – such a defendant may have been entitled to have his hearing postponed.

The four months that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit allocated to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers are a tight time frame. The cases involving the premier are made up of hundreds of testimonies, thousands of items of evidence and tens of thousands of pages of minutes.

To create a different narrative from the one cultivated by the prosecution, Netanyahu’s attorneys would require a more generous time frame that would enable them to intensively pore over the materials in the cases.

>> Read more: Attorney general expected to agree to postpone Netanyahu's pre-indictment hearing ■ The law designed to close the cases against Netanyahu | Opinion ■ As indictment nears, where do Israeli parties stand on bill granting Netanyahu immunity? ■ Netanyahu's hope for immunity: An uphill battle likely to fail

The issue is that the attorney general understands that Netanyahu is fooling him. He gets that in the coming months, the prime minister intends to recruit members of his coalition to carry out a move that would brutally destroy the value of equality before the law: Netanyahu plans to get immunity from indictment and will try to neutralize a veto by the High Court against this corrupt decision.

Since he won the election in April, Netanyahu has been acting as if there is no chance he will be facing trial: He hasn’t sorted out the payment for his attorneys, he ordered them to refrain from collecting the materials pertaining to the investigations against him and has repeated again and again the claim that the people’s choice in the election trumps Mendelblit’s decision.

In these unusual circumstances, the request by Netanyahu’s lawyers to postpone the date of the hearing by several months must be rejected. He is not interested in using this time to give his lawyers the best conditions to provide him with an efficient line of defense. Instead, he plans to use this period to advance legislative moves that would save him from facing indictment and strip the High Court of its strength and stature.

2000breach

Such a defendant does not deserve the treatment that any other democracy-respecting individual would have been entitled to. In fact, Netanyahu and Mendelblit are racing against the clock, and the real question is what happens first: Will Netanyahu be protected from facing the law or will he be indicted?

The attorney general, who can detect the escape plot Netanyahu is hatching and his transparent attempts at buying time, ought to act in the same manner dictated by the defendant: Suspiciously, firmly and with zero tolerance.