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Attorney General likely to decide on Netanyahu probes before election: report

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is investigating the police recommendations urging Netanyahu's indictment for bribery in three separate cases -- dubbed Cases 1000, 2000, and 4000.
(AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit consulted with former High Court justices on whether he can publish his decision on a number of corruption probes against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the elections on April 9, Hadashot TV reported on Tuesday.

Netanyahu faces at least three criminal probes in which police have recommended his indictment for bribery and corruption, leaving the final decision on whether or not he will be indicted up to the attorney general.

“Announcing a decision before elections is our obligation to the public that is going to the polls. I will do my utmost to finish the work as soon as possible,” Mandelblit reportedly said last week at a hotel near Jerusalem.

The report also suggested that Mandelblit is likely to summon Netanyahu for a pre-indictment hearing. However, should the Attorney General summon him, the Israeli Prime Minister will not resign: “If that happens, I won’t resign,” Netanyahu said on Monday.

“In a democracy the ballot box decides who will be in power,” the prime minister noted, as Israel prepares to hold snap elections on April 9th.

Netanyahu’s lawyers responded to Hadashot TV’s report, saying it would be ‘undemocratic’ if Mandeblit decided to announce his decision before the elections.

Gali Tibbon/Pool Photo via AP

"We believe there will not be an (indictment subject to a hearing) because nothing (untoward) has happened,” Netanyahu’s lawyers said in a statement. 

“It is undemocratic to start a hearing before the elections when it can not be concluded until after the elections. It is inconceivable that the public will hear only one side and not the other.  Declaring a hearing during the election campaign without allowing the other side to respond would therefore be a distortion of the voter’s will and a severe blow to the democratic process,” the statement added. 

Another report from Channel 10 on Tuesday cited legal sources saying that Netanyahu could technically continue serving as prime minister during a hearing process.

“The public should judge whether it is appropriate for a prime minister to keep serving when there’s a decision to hold a hearing. Therefore, the attorney general is making great efforts to make a decision before the elections. The problem will arise if Netanyahu refuses to resign in a scenario in which an indictment is filed against him,” the sources reportedly said.

However, the sources added that Netanyahu would inevitably be forced to resign if an indictment is filed against him.

“Under a final indictment, we believe the attorney general will be forced to oppose the continued tenure of the prime minister. We can’t have a precedent that a prime minister serves while being tried in court, no matter what offense he is accused of — if he will be,” the sources reportedly said.

(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

If Netanyahu is indicted, he is not required to step down -- only if he is convicted with all appeals exhausted. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, can ask the prime minister to step down before that process is complete, but if it does not, he can remain in office throughout.

Despite Netanyahu's recent legal and political troubles, polls have indicated he would remain prime minister after new elections putting him in line to become Israel's longest-serving premier.

“Israel is a state of law and according to the law, a prime minister does not have to resign during a hearing process,” Netanyahu said. “The hearing will not end until you hear my side and therefore it makes no sense to start a hearing process before the elections if you cannot finish it until after the elections."

Asked whether he would withdraw from politics if he loses the upcoming elections, Netanyahu replied: "Do not expel me so quickly. The State of Israel needs strong and steady leadership and my relations with world leaders, including Putin and Trump, are something that no other Israeli leader can reach."

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