Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing is fast approaching: What are his options?

With the election day behind us, another date is fast approaching

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

With Tuesday’s elections behind him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself in a political stalemate. Adding to his woes is another important date that’s fast approaching – October 2 – the scheduled time for his pre-indictment hearing.

At the hearing, Netanyahu will have a chance to convince Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, not to put him on trial in three corruption cases.

Netanyahu’s has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and even bribery in Cases 1000, 2000 and 4000. The odds that the cases will be dismissed are considered virtually nil, observers say.

If the hearing does end in a decision to indict, what are Netanyahu’s options?

Shortly following April’s election, Netanyahu loyalists had proposed an immunity law to protect  the prime minister from criminal prosecution. That effort didn’t succeed. If Netanyahu does manage to achieve another term as  prime minister, he could opt for a second try at the law.

The eight members of Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beiteinu party would presumably hold the key, as the left-wing bloc would oppose it and the right without Liberman wouldn’t have enough votes by itself to pass it.

However, such a law would almost certainly be appealed and end up before the Supreme Court, which could very well overturn it.

Plea bargain?

A second possibility is that Netanyahu would ask for a plea bargain, in which the charges would be reduced to offenses that do not carry a penalty of jail-time, in exchange for his leaving political office.

Considering the seriousness of the charges, many commentators do not believe Mandelblit could agree. Netanyahu himself has insisted on his innocence so often that he may feel that he cannot admit to any wrongdoing whatsoever.

Goes to court

Finally, there could be a trial – or two, or three. As prime minister, there is no law that says he can’t serve while going to court, testifying, being cross-examined, and going through all the appeals he can if the judges convict him.

On the other hand, his party may force him out of power, which is what happened in 2008 to then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after it became clear that he would be put on trial on corruption charges.

If the Likud is in the opposition, however, and Netanyahu is merely a parliament member, or even  a minister in a unity government, he will have to resign, in accordance with legal precedent that was set years ago.