Israel AG rejects Netanyahu request to push back pre-indictment hearing

Israel’s attorney general Thursday rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to postpone a pre-indictment hearing in the corruption cases against him.

Netanyahu's request to postpone the early October hearing cited the snap election set for Sept. 17 due to his inability to form a government, The Times of Israel reported.

Netanyahu had until midnight on May 29 to cobble together a coalition government made up of his conservative Likud party and allied religious and nationalist parties, but negotiations fell apart over military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jewish men. In response, the 120-member Israeli parliament, the Knesset, voted to dissolve itself.

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Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said that the new elections did not justify a second delay, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Mandelblit pointed out that he had already agreed to postpone the hearing once, from July to early October, even though his pre-indictment announcement dated back to Feb. 28.

Netanyahu’s lawyers initially asked for a full-year postponement until next July, reportedly arguing that there was too much evidence to review in three months, but that request was denied.

Mandelblit's decision to reject a second postponement request came in response to a petition to the High Court of Justice by the Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel, which wanted him to stick to the original July 10 hearing date, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Netanyahu responded by claiming that Mandelblit and state prosecutors had allowed a two-year delay of a pre-indictment hearing in a case against a judge.

A spokesman for Netanyahu reportedly argued that it was not fair that the judge was granted a two-year extension for a building violation and the prime minister was only given a three-month extension for a more complex case.

“This is the definition of injustice. It is thoroughly shocking,” Netanyahu’s statement said.

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A justice ministry spokeswoman said that the case against Netanyahu, which includes bribery charges, is much more serious and therefore, his case is on a regular bribery case track and not the extremely delayed track for insignificant building-zoning cases, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Netanyahu’s attorneys must notify the attorney general’s office by June 10 if he intends to move forward with the hearing, where he would get the opportunity to try and persuade Mandelblit not to prosecute him. If Netanyahu decides not to go through with a hearing, the attorney general could file indictments within days or weeks, according to The Times of Israel.

Mandelblit has recommended pressing criminal charges against the Israeli prime minister in three corruption cases, pending the hearing. The charges include allegations that Netanyahu accepted gifts from billionaire friends and promoted beneficial regulations for a telecom magnate in exchange for positive news coverage.

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Netanyahu has denied all the allegations against him and has called the charges the product of a media-orchestrated witch hunt to try and remove him from office.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.