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AG may issue decision on PM graft cases Thursday; could keep materials sealed

Mandelblit reportedly set to announce bribery charge against Netanyahu, pending hearing; may accept defense’s position that detailed files could be used by political opponents

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at a Channel 12 News conference in Jerusalem on September 3, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit speaks at a Channel 12 News conference in Jerusalem on September 3, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is widely expected to announce as early as Thursday his decision on whether to press charges in three criminal investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

However, he is likely to withhold case materials backing up any such decision until after elections on April 9, following a petition from Netanyahu’s defense team, the Ynet news website reported.

Mandelblit has refused demands by Netanyahu’s lawyers that an announcement on whether he intends to indict Netanyahu wait until after the vote. According to multiple reports, he will announce his intention to indict the prime minister in at least two of the cases on either Thursday or Sunday.

Mandelblit cannot formally file charges against Netanyahu until after a hearing, which is not expected to take place until after elections.

The prime minister’s attorneys have pushed for Mandelblit to keep details from the case material sealed, arguing that they could be used for political purposes and campaign propaganda, according to Ynet.

The report did not cite a source.

Netanyahu shortened his trip to Russia this week and canceled a planned event with Moscow’s Jewish community, reportedly to prepare for the expected indictment announcement. He is now scheduled to return to Israel on Wednesday night.

The three cases against the prime minister are known as Cases 1000, 2000 and 4000. Mandelblit is widely reported to be readying a breach of trust charge in Case 1000 and a bribery charge in Case 4000. His likely decision in Case 2000 is not clear.

Case 1000 involves suspicions that Netanyahu received gifts and benefits from billionaire benefactors in exchange for favors. In Case 2000 he suspected of entering into an illicit quid-pro-quo deal with 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.

In Case 4000, widely seen as the most serious against the premier, he is suspected of having advanced regulatory decisions that benefited Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for positive coverage from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in all three probes.

On Sunday, the State Comptroller’s Permits Committee rejected for the second time a request by Netanyahu to fund his legal defense in the three cases via payments from wealthy associates, including his cousin.

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