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Netanyahu says pre-election indictment hearing is 'unthinkable'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks with attorney general Avichai Mandelblit, who is currently investigating a Netanyahu confidant, at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on November 8, 2015
Abir Sultan (Pool/AFP/File)
Over half of Israelis think Netanyahu should resign if indicted, according to a recent poll

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a video statement posted to Twitter on Thursday evening, told the public that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit should not initiate a hearing on the premier’s potential indictment if the procedures will extend beyond the April 9 elections.

“It is unacceptable that the public will only hear the claims of one side and not the other,” Netanyahu said.

The Israeli leader, who investigators have recommended to be tried in at least three separate corruption cases, went on to accuse “the Left” of applying years of “thuggish and inhumane pressure” on Mandelblit to procure an indictment.

“They are trying to force the Attorney General to undertake gross interference in the election by inviting me to a [pre-indictment] hearing, when it’s known in advance that the hearing cannot be finished before the election," he added.

Meanwhile, a poll released by the Jerusalem Post on Thursday revealed that more than half of Israelis believe Netanyahu should resign from his position if charged with criminal offenses.

Another 34 percent said he would not need to step down while 15 percent were indifferent or did not know.

Israel’s Channel 10 reported this week that Mandelblit will publish the results of his review of evidence in February.

Legally, Netanyahu could continue to serve as prime minister if indicted, though he may be forced to resign depending on public reaction.

Leo CORREA (POOL/AFP/File)

February 21 is the official deadline for parties to register their candidate lists with Israel’s Central Elections Committee, and it is possible that Mandelblit will recommend a pre-hearing indictment before that date.

However, 67 percent of Israelis polled said Netanyahu would not need to resign in the event of a pre-hearing indictment.

Unsurprisingly, members of Netanyahu’s Likud party showed the most loyalty to the prime minister, with 78 percent saying his is “most fit” for the job.

Among voters previously supporting the now dissolved Zionist Union, only 10 percent said Avi Gabbay was “most fit” while 41 percent prefer Gantz, 14 percent say Lapid, and 29 percent did not give an opinion.

The poll’s results for the number of seats obtained by each party were relatively the same as other polls released this week.

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