Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attorney to discuss Netanyahu’s request that Mendelblit not make any decisions in the cases against him prior to April’s election.
In his response to attorney Navot Tel-Zur’s letter, Mendelblit’s aide, Gil Limon, wrote that work on the cases won’t be influenced by the election, but Mendelblit is willing to meet with Tel-Zur early next week, “so you can explain your client’s position about the timing” of the decision “in greater depth.” Nevertheless, he added, the meeting will concern only the timing, not the substance of the cases.
As Haaretz has previously reported, Mendelblit is expected to issue his decision next month.
In his letter, Limon said the Attorney General’s Office was obeying Mendelblit’s instruction that “there are no grounds for suspending the handling of cases against elected officials or candidates” if police have finished investigating and the cases are merely awaiting a prosecutor’s decision. Though the cases will be handled “with the requisite caution,” he added, prosecutors will be guided “strictly by professional considerations.”
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Former senior Justice Ministry officials have backed Mendelblit’s intent to publish his decision before the election, and Mendelblit said last month that he’s “trying to work as fast as possible” without sacrificing professional thoroughness.
If Mendelblit does announce a decision to indict, it won’t be final until a pre-indictment hearing is held at which Netanyahu’s attorneys can try to change his mind. Consequently, Mendelblit has said that even if he decides to indict, Netanyahu can remain in office until that hearing takes place.
Mendelblit began marathon discussions of the three Netanyahu cases last month. Discussions of the first, involving illicit gifts from businessmen, have finished, and Mendelblit is leaning toward accepting prosecutors’ recommendation that Netanyahu be charged with fraud and breach of trust.
He and some 20 other jurists are now discussing the second case, involving a never-consummated deal in which a newspaper publisher allegedly offered Netanyahu favorable coverage if Netanyahu would take steps to undermine the paper’s main rival. Here, not all 20 agree with the prosecution’s recommendation to charge Netanyahu with bribery.
In the final case, in which prosecutors also recommended bribery charges, Netanyahu allegedly gave regulatory benefits to telecommunications giant Bezeq in exchange for favorable coverage by Bezeq’s internet news site, Walla.