AG: Netanyahu doesn’t have to step down when his graft trial gathers pace

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says Prime Minister Netanyahu won’t have to step down when his trial on corruption charges revs up in January.

“Beginning in the coming months the prime minister’s trial will be held, in Jerusalem District Court, with a high frequency of hearings… To me this fact in itself doesn’t establish any cause for the prime minister’s recusal,” Mandelblit says at a legal conference.

The attorney general stresses that while Netanyahu can continue to serve as prime minister, he must avoid any conflict of interest — whereby he attempts to use his political status to try to influence the criminal proceedings against him. “It is permissible for him to serve as prime minister while on criminal trial, provided he is subject to the very clear restrictions of a conflict on interest arrangement, that deprives him of any possibility of influencing his personal criminal matters by utilizing the rights of his [elected] office.”

Previously, earlier in the legal process against Netanyahu, Mandelblit had said the prime minister did not have to suspend himself “at this time” but it was not clear whether this decision would still apply when the trial gathered pace.

Had Netanyahu known earlier about this stance of the attorney general, political analyst Amit Segal says on Channel 12 news, the prime minister would not have considering pushing for early elections last month.

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