After Netanyahu's decisive victory in Tuesday's election, Israel’s Justice Ministry continues to mull whether or not to file a criminal indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases.
Despite his legal trouble, Netanyahu's right-wing bloc is project to have 65 Knesset seats, with Israel's center-left parties taking 55, allowing Netanyahu to yet again form the goverment.
Israel's attorney-general announced on Feb. 28 he intended to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, though the actual filing of the charges would depend on the outcome of a required hearing.
The hearing, the ministry said, will take place no later than July 10.
"The attorney-general ... decided to accept the request of the prime minister's attorneys to delay the delivery of investigation materials in the cases related to the prime minister until after the election date," the Justice Ministry said in a statement.
It said Netanyahu made the request out of concern that evidentiary material could leak to the media - and potentially affect public sentiment.
Netanyahu is suspected of wrongfully accepting $264,000 worth of gifts, which prosecutors said included cigars and champagne, from tycoons, and dispensing favours in alleged bids for improved coverage by an Israeli newspaper and a website.
The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing.
He could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of bribery and a maximum 3-year term for fraud and breach of trust.
Opinion polls show a tight race for Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, with gains for a centre-left alliance led by Benny Gantz, an ex-armed forces chief who has vowed clean government.
Here are some key questions regarding the looming indictment:
Yes he can. The attorney general’s decision to indict Netanyahu will not be official until after the hearing, and there isn’t even a legal requirement for him to resign as prime minister if he is then indicted. It is fully possible – many say probable – that he will remain in power if he wins the election and is subsequently indicted, despite doubts that he can prepare a legal defense while running the country.
Even if he is re-elected, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might not be able to pass proposed legislation to shield him from standing trial, given the positions of some of his likely coalition partners.
On stage, we see players like the government and media outlets, but the real authority is behind the scenes. This is Netanyahu's true legacy.