Israeli Prosecutors’ Conference Postponed Ahead of Netanyahu Indictment

Scheduling decisions may imply that the announcement on an indictment of the prime minister will be issued next Sunday or Monday

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference at military headquarters in Tel Aviv, November 11, 2019.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference at military headquarters in Tel Aviv, November 11, 2019.Credit: Moti Milrod
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan announced Sunday the postponement of a conference for senior prosecutors scheduled for Thursday. His office cited “scheduling constraints” and said a new date would be set for the gathering in Jerusalem.

The announcement came as a decision is expected in the pending criminal cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Justice Minister spokesman Moshe Cohen left Israel Sunday for travel overseas and is scheduled to return next Sunday.

A different prosecutors’ conference is scheduled for next Tuesday in Eilat. A farewell ceremony for Nitzan, whose term as state prosecutor ends December 15, is expected to be part of that gathering.

Taking all of these factors into account, the assumption is that the announcement on an indictment will be issued next Sunday or Monday.

On Friday, Haaretz reported that Likud was readying for an announcement on Tuesday thhis week, after Netanyahu’s party received information according to which that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit would announce the indictments within days, and certainly before the Eilat conference.

The attorney general and his staff will have to decide whether to charge Netanyahu in three different cases. In Case 1000 Netanyahu is suspected of getting gifts worth hundreds of thousands of shekels from various tycoons, chief among them film producer Arnon Milchan. The suspicion is that Milchan and his former partner James Packer gave Netanyahu and his wife boxes of cigars, cases of Champagne and other luxury items as per their demand. In return, Netanyahu allegedly “worked in the context of his public positions for Milchan’s benefit regarding a number of business and personal issues, while he was facing a serious conflict of interest between the public good and his personal obligations to Milchan,” according to the document detailing the allegations.

Case 2000 deals with conversations between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes, in which the premier allegedly offered to advance legislation that would weaken Yedioth’s rival, Israel Hayom, in return for favorable coverage by Yedioth Ahronoth and Ynet, the paper’s website. Some of these conversations were recorded at Netanyahu’s request by Ari Harow, his bureau chief before turning state’s evidence. Netanyahu subsequently asked ministers Zeev Elkin and Yariv Levin whether a law restricting Israel Hayom could be passed during an election campaign. By negotiating with Mozes over legislation, Netanyahu allegedly took improper advantage of his position as prime minister.

Case 4000 is considered the most serious of the three, in which Netanyahu is suspected of accepting a bribe from Bezeq’s former controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch — favorable coverage on Elovitch’s Walla news website — in return for regulatory moves of considerable financial benefit to Bezeq. The testimony of state’s witness Shlomo Filber, the former director general of the Communications Ministry, was aimed at establishing Netanyahu’s knowledge of the value of the benefits to Bezeq. Testimony by state’s witness Nir Hefetz, a former adviser to the Netanyahu family, offered evidence that Netanyahu was aware of the biased coverage by Walla.

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