Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Sunday instructed police to wait before submitting their conclusions regarding two graft investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, due to a High Court petition seeking to prevent their publication.
The move came amid reports that police were poised to recommend indictments against the prime minister this week.
As a result of Mandelblit’s measure, publication of the police conclusions in Netanyahu’s cases are likely to be delayed by several days. Once the recommendations are filed, Mandelblit must decide whether an indictment is warranted.
In December, the Knesset passed a law that prevents police, upon wrapping up their investigations and handing over the files to prosecutors, from commenting on whether there is an evidentiary basis for indictment. The legislation applies only to probes of public officials and other high-profile cases, but not retroactively, meaning that \it does not cover the Netanyahu investigations.
Mandelblit ordered the delay after attorney Yossi Fuchs filed a petition last week asking the court to prevent police from publishing their recommendations in the Netanyahu probes until a hearing is held on an earlier petition by Fuchs that aims to apply the new law retroactively.
Last week, the court gave the state until February 15 to respond to the latest petition.
Anti-corruption demonstrators have held regular protests outside Mandelblit’s home, accusing him of dragging out the investigations into the prime minister. The attorney general has repeatedly justified the time they are taking — over a year — saying that they investigations must be thorough and not rushed.
The latest development came after last week Netanyahu lashed out at police over their handling of the two ongoing criminal investigations into his alleged corruption.
The criticism was sparked by Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, saying that officers investigating Netanyahu had been followed and put under pressure.
In a rare interview on the cases to Hadashot news’s investigative program “Uvda,” Alsheich claimed that “powerful figures” had hired private investigators to collect information about the police investigators in the Netanyahu cases, apparently to personally discredit them should they recommend indictments.
Netanyahu responded by calling for an immediate probe into Alsheich’s “false and outrageous” suggestions, and also said that the claims cast doubts on the objectivity of case officers, as well as the purity of the entire investigation into him.
In so-called Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, reportedly including hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.