AG to announce decision on Netanyahu criminal cases at 7:30 p.m.
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AG to announce decision on Netanyahu criminal cases at 7:30 p.m.

If, as expected, charges are announced in the 3 investigations, it will be first time Israel is led by premier facing criminal indictment; Netanyahu to give statement at 8:30 p.m.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at a Justice Ministry conference in Tel Aviv, on November 4, 2019. (Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at a Justice Ministry conference in Tel Aviv, on November 4, 2019. (Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will announce his decision on whether to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, the Justice Ministry said.

The statement said the live announcement would take place at the ministry’s Jerusalem headquarters on Salah Ad-Din Street in Jerusalem, and that Mandelblit would take no questions from the media.

If, as widely expected, charges are announced, it would mark the first time Israel is led by a premier facing a criminal indictment.

An hour after the Justice Ministry’s announcement, Netanyahu will deliver his response in a press conference, at 8:30 p.m.

The Likud party on Thursday called on party activists to rally outside the prime minister’s Jerusalem residence to express their support for him ahead of the announcement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 20, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Some demonstrators were reportedly already outside the residence, but were chanting slogans calling for Netanyahu to leave office.

In a draft charge sheet issued in February, Mandelblit outlined an indictment for bribery, fraud and breach of trust against the premier in Case 4000, and fraud and breach of trust in two other cases, dubbed by police Case 1000 and Case 2000.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of illicitly receiving gifts such as champagne, cigars and jewelry valued at some NIS 700,000 ($201,000) from billionaire benefactors Arnon Milchan and James Packer, and allegedly reciprocating in Milchan’s case with various forms of assistance.

In Case 2000, Netanyahu is accused of agreeing with Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes to weaken a rival daily in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth. The agreement was never implemented.

In Case 4000, Netanyahu is suspected of pushing regulatory decisions financially benefiting the controlling shareholder of the Bezeq telecommunications group, Shaul Elovitch, in return for ongoing positive coverage from Bezeq’s Walla news site. It is the most serious of the three cases against the prime minister as it carries the potential charge of bribery.

Shaul Elovitch arrives at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for an extension of his remand in Case 4000, February 22, 2018. (Flash90/File)

In October, prosecutors and the prime minister’s legal team held several days of hearings in which Netanyahu’s attorneys sought to refute the allegations against him.

Netanyahu denies all wrongdoing and has frequently claimed that the investigations against him are a witch hunt and a conspiracy orchestrated by the media, the left, police and the state prosecution.

But the decision to indict lies with Mandelblit, who served as cabinet secretary under Netanyahu and was appointed by him to the attorney general post in 2016.

If Mandelblit announces he plans to indict the prime minister, that does not mean Netanyahu will face any immediate legal peril. It could take months before formal charges are filed, as Netanyahu is expected to ask the Knesset for parliamentary immunity.

The Knesset House Committee and plenum would have to rule on Netanyahu’s immunity, but the committee does not currently have any members, as no coalition agreement has yet been signed in the 22nd Knesset dividing up committee seats between the parliament’s factions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Likud party rally in Tel Aviv on November 17, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Only once a new coalition is formed — either over the next several weeks or, failing that, after the next round of elections slated for March — can a Knesset House Committee take up the question.

Even if Netanyahu’s immunity request is rejected, it could take until May or June for a formal decision to be made. An actual indictment could thus still be more than seven months away.

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