Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's legal team met Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit on Monday to discuss the timing of his announcement regarding possible indictment of the prime minister. Netanyahu has requested the announcement be postponed until after the April 9 elections.
At the meeting's conclusion, Mendelblit said the defense's claims were heard, and their case would be considered properly. The statement added that Mendelblit will make his decision in the coming days and pass it on promptly to the defense team.
The meeting was held at Mendelblit's office and included State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan.
The former president of the Be’er Sheva District Court, Sefi Elon, participated in the meeting on behalf of the defense, in support of the prime minister’s request. None of the prosecutors involved in the cases were present.
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On December 19, the State Prosecutor’s Office recommended indicting Netanyahu for bribery in two corruption cases, case 2000 and case 4000. The next step is for the attorney general to decide whether to pursue charges.
Last week, Mendelblit’s aide, Gil Limon, wrote to Netanyahu’s lawyers that the ongoing work on the cases will not be affected by the election. Limon added that Mendelblit was willing to meet with one of Netanyahu's lawyers, Navot Tel-Zur to explain Netanyahu’s position about the timing of the decision in depth, though observers do not think Mendelblit likely to accede to the premier’s request.
Netanyahu’s representatives – Tel-Zur, Tal Shapira, Amit Hadad and a former judge, Oded Mudrik – had written to the attorney general to complain that he was accelerating the handling of the cases ostensibly involving the prime minister in order to wrap them up before the polls.
The official procedures of the attorney general rule that cases against publicly elected officials shall not be suspended in election periods, the lawyers wrote, but they implied that the investigation has moved forward much more quickly than it should have.
Netanyahu's lawyers also insist that if Mendelblit decides to close Case 4000, involving the alleged bribery by the prime minister and his wife of a telecoms tycoon, without pressing charges, the attorney general should say so before the election.
They further argue that if Mendelblit decides to summon Netanyahu for a hearing ahead of possible charges (which many observers think is likely), he should not announce it before the election. Netanyahu's lawyers say that it would be an "interim, non-operative decision" – meaning that following the hearing Mendelblit's opinion of the case could change entirely.
In the past, the lawyers wrote – hearings have led to cases being closed, and publication of the suspicions against Netanyahu could “mislead the public” into thinking that the premier would be charged, say the lawyers. In short, it could affect voters.
Mendelblit clarified that the meeting would be devoted solely to discussing a date for announcing a decision. Mendelblit said they would not be discussing the substance of the suspicions, the course of the investigation, or the materials.