Dropping Bid for New Delay, Netanyahu Says He Will Attend Pre-indictment Hearing

Netanyahu has argued that he can’t prepare properly for the hearing because of the September 17 election, despite the fact that the new election was his idea

Prime Minister Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, June 2, 2019.
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he will attend his pre-indictment hearing on the scheduled date in early October, thereby abandoning his idea of petitioning the High Court of Justice in an effort to obtain a postponement.

Nevertheless, defense attorney Amit Hadad said Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit should have agreed to a postponement.

“We think there are weighty reasons to justify postponement,” he said, maintaining that dozens of documents are missing from the case files he has been given. He also charged that “in contrast to every other public figure,” a special government permits committee has refused to let Netanyahu accept money from friends to finance his legal defense.

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“That means only I am here to represent the prime minister,” he continued. “One person who is supposed to read so much material needs more time. Therefore, we contacted the attorney general and told him we’ll come to the hearing, but it would have been proper to reconsider the date and postpone it.”

Netanyahu has argued that he can’t prepare properly for the hearing because of the September 17 election. But the new election was his own idea, which he pushed through the Knesset after failing to form a government following April’s election.

Mendelblit’s refusal to postpone the hearing is “the definition of injustice,” Netanyahu charged, adding that it’s “inconceivable” that a “mad dash” to hold the hearing “should supersede the need to discover the truth.”

Mendelblit’s aide, Gil Limon, had written previously that “dissolving the Knesset and holding new elections cannot in themselves be a consideration that justifies postponing the date.” Moreover, he said, the fact that the prime minister may be busy trying to form a new government was already taken into account when the scheduled date – which falls immediately after the Rosh Hashanah holiday – was set.

Netanyahu is currently trying to find additional lawyers, as the former head of his defense team, Navot Tel Zur, resigned. He recently approached several leading defense attorneys, but many have already turned him down due to concerns over payment.

Netanyahu has unpaid debts to his previous lawyers, because he refuses to pay his legal expenses out of his own pocket and has been unable to secure the permits committee’s approval to raise money from his wealthy businessmen friends. Aside from Tel Zur, five other lawyers have so far quit representing him – Tal Shapira, Pinhas Rubin, Jacques Chen, Yaron Kostelitz and Keren Shapira.

Netanyahu is suspected of bribery in one case and fraud and breach of trust in two others. Mendelblit announced plans to indict him on these charges, subject to a hearing, back in February, but at Netanyahu’s request he agreed not to turn the evidence over to the defense attorneys until after the April 9 election.