Attorney general serves Netanyahu with deadline to set pre-trial hearing

If Netanyahu’s lawyers don’t act within 11 days, the attorney general warned they may lose the right to pursue dropping some or all charges against the prime minister.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers on Sunday that if they don’t set a date  for pre-trial hearings by May 10, he will proceed with the criminal charges without hearing Netanyahu’s side first, as is customary in such proceedings.

Netanyahu’s legal representatives say they have delayed making an appointment to go over the charges because they haven’t been paid.

They have also used this reason for not going to get the boxes of documents that Avichai Mandelblit’s office has collected over the course of the years-long investigations into the prime minister’s affairs.

Mandelblit appears unwilling to consider any further delays. In March, the attorney general announced his intent to indict Netanyahu, agreeing to freeze the hearing process only to accommodate the the nation’s Knesset campaign and elections.

A disagreement over money “does not justify any delay in transferring the core investigative materials to the prime minister or to his representatives, and in any event, this does not affect the date of the hearing,” he warned Netanyahu’s lawyers, reminding them via letter that the proceedings must take place before July 10.

Mandelblit’s office further cautioned that “if the prime minister elects not to hold the hearing, the attorney general will make a final decision on his cases on the basis of the evidence at his disposal.”

Unless Netanyahu’s lawyers can bring convincing arguments against the evidence, Mandelblit is planning on indicting the prime minister for fraud and breach of trust in what are known as Cases 1000, 2000 and 4000. In the last case, the more serious charge of bribery has been added as well.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu allegedly received expensive gifts in exchange for favors to millionaires who supplied him with good such as cases of champagne and cigars. In Case 2000, he allegedly made a deal with the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth for more flattering coverage in exchange for favorable treatment in comparison to competitor Israel Hayom, which is overtaking the older daily.

Case 4000 contains the allegation of bribery because Netanyahu is accused of influencing regulatory decisions that led to Bezeq’s controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch receiving hundreds of millions of dollars. Netanyahu’s alleged quid pro quo in this case is also related to positive news coverage in Elovitch’s Hebrew news site, Walla.

The prime minister has steadfastly denied all the charges, calling them a conspiracy to topple him from power by the left.

In the most recent elections in April, Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc emerged victorious, notwithstanding the prime minsiter’s well-known  legal woes.