Haaretz Editorial

Mendelblit, Don’t Delay

The corruption cases centered on the Israeli prime minister have aroused fierce legal, public and political storms, but they basically tell a very simple story. He cannot continue as prime minister of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow, Russia January 29, 2018
\ MAXIM SHEMETOV/ REUTERS

The police announcement Tuesday – that the investigations into two cases involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been completed – came 13 months after Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit decided that a “preliminary examination” of the allegations, which itself took six months, should become full-fledged criminal investigations. The bottom line of the police’s recommendations in both cases, which have become known as Case 1000 and Case 2000, is unequivocal; the evidence collected against the prime minister and others who were partners to these alleged offenses point to the commission of bribery, the worst violation in the toolbox of public corruption.

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Now that the files move from the police to the prosecution, prosecutors will have to study the evidence, analyze it, and prepare an opinion that will be submitted to Mendelblit so that he can decide whether to prosecute the main suspects, and for what (if any) offenses to charge them, subject to a hearing to which they will be summoned before a final decision is made. In the past, such processes involving elected officials have taken months, or even a few years.

But this time there is no justification for such delays; not only have taxation and economics attorneys been accompanying the police investigators from the start and are thus familiar with every shred of evidence gathered in the cases, but the attorney general himself, who closely oversaw the investigation, was himself a type of “accompanying prosecutor,” so he will not have to study the cases from scratch, either.

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Speedy action by the prosecution doesn’t only have legal importance – so that if there’s a trial it won’t be an archeological excavation of the distant past – but also political and public importance. If the decision is to prosecute, subject to a hearing, and the hearing itself before an indictment takes place close to the next elections, they will serve as a tool in political struggles and their social value as an objective instrument for getting at the truth will be lost. What’s more, key officials in law enforcement will be accused of serving one political side or another.

Taxation and economics prosecutor Liat Ben Ari and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan must submit their opinions to Mendelblit within a month or two. After that, the attorney general must conduct marathon discussions until a decision is made. The corruption cases centered on the Israeli prime minister have aroused fierce legal, public and political storms, but they basically tell a very simple story. Netanyahu allegedly accepted favors in corrupt deals with a series of people, while he promised and in some cases provided something in return. He cannot continue as prime minister of Israel for even one day beyond what’s required.