AG said aiming for February announcement on Netanyahu indictment

Report says Case 1000 likely to produce breach of trust, rather than bribery, charge; officials split on Case 2000

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a Knesset State Control Committee meeting on December 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a Knesset State Control Committee meeting on December 3, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is likely to announce by February his conclusions on a possible indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three graft cases, Channel 10 news reported Wednesday, citing a legal source familiar with the investigations.

An announcement at that time would come two months before general elections on April 9.

Police have recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for bribery in all three of the probes against him, and it is now up to Mandelblit to decide whether to press charges.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving benefits worth about NIS 1 million ($282,000) from billionaire benefactors, including Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in exchange for assistance on various issues.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble Israel Hayom in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

In Case 4000, reportedly the most serious of the three, Netanyahu is suspected of having advanced regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister from 2015 to 2017 that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications firm, in exchange for positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to deliver a statement at the Knesset, on December 19, 2018. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Deliberations on Case 1000 will end on Thursday, the report said, with Mandelblit said inclined to recommend an indictment for breach of trust in the case, rather than the more serious offense of bribery. Legal proceedings against Milchan will be dropped and he will become a witness for the state, the report said.

Case 2000 deliberations are to begin next week. According to the report, there are two opposing opinions within the attorney general’s office regarding the case, with some senior officials maintaining that an indictment should be filed against the prime minister, while others believe the case should be closed.

Hebrew media on Tuesday reported that during an annual meeting last week of senior legal figures, including former Supreme Court justices and former attorney generals, Mandelblit said he felt it was “his duty” to announce before the elections whether he intended to indict the prime minister subject to a hearing.

The prime minister’s legal team responded to the reports by saying such a decision would be a “blow to the democratic process” because the hearing would not be completed by the time elections are held, casting an unfair cloud over Netanyahu.

Only after the hearing would Mandelblit make a final decision on whether or not to indict Netanyahu, who has vowed not to step down even if the attorney-general announces he intends to indict him and calls him for a hearing. Legal officials are reported to share Netanyahu’s assertion that he need not step down during the hearing process, but that he would have a “problem” were he to seek to remain in office after an indictment is filed.

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