Legal confab said postponed by state prosecutor as Netanyahu indictments loom

PM expected to face criminal charges in three cases by early next week, report says

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan arrives at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem for a hearing on the corruption cases in which Netanyahu is a suspect, on October 3, 2019 (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan arrives at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem for a hearing on the corruption cases in which Netanyahu is a suspect, on October 3, 2019 (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan has reportedly postponed a large legal conference scheduled for Thursday as judicial officials prepare to lodge criminal charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three cases.

According to the Haaretz daily, the conference, which was set to be held in Jerusalem, was delayed due to “scheduling constraints.” It said the Justice Ministry’s spokesperson was traveling until next Sunday and the indictments against Netanyahu are expected to be announced next Sunday or Monday.

Nitzan is expected to complete his term on December 15.

On Friday, Haaretz said Netanyahu’s Likud party has received information that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit may formally announce corruption charges against the premier as early as Tuesday. Channel 13 news reported Thursday that a decision could be made within 10 days.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The ruling party was organizing a large rally outside Mandelblit’s home in Petah Tikva on Monday evening, Haaretz said, in an attempt to preempt the announcement and prevent a widespread public demand for Netanyahu to take an immediate leave of absence.

Likud was said to be preparing the demonstration in cooperation with the right-wing group Im Tirtzu, estimating that thousands would attend.

However, police have not yet authorized the rally, the report said, since it is current police policy to allow the protests held frequently near Mandelblit’s home — both by those for and against an indictment — to take place only on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Mandelblit served as cabinet secretary under Netanyahu and was appointed by him to the attorney general post in 2016.

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.

Supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrate near Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s home in Petah Tikva, October 29, 2019. (Flash90)

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.

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 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.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit arrives at the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem for the hearing on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption cases on October 7, 2019. (Flash90)

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.

The legal woes come as Netanyahu is fighting for his political survival, with the country’s unprecedented second election of the year again failing to provide him with a clear victory. In last month’s election, neither Netanyahu nor his chief challenger, Benny Gantz, secured the required parliamentary majority to form a new government. Both men have expressed support for a unity government as a way out of the deadlock, but they remain far apart on who should lead it and what smaller parties would join them. Gantz is attempting to form a coalition, but his mandate to do so expires Wednesday.

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