JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has rejected a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to further postpone his pre-indictment hearing in at least three cases against him.
The hearing, which had originally been scheduled for July, last month was ordered postponed until early October after Netanyahu’s lawyers successfully argued that they needed the extra time due to the large number of documents to review. The investigation files were not made available until after the April 9 election to prevent leaks to the media, and it took the attorneys more than a month to pick them up.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu asked for a further delay, saying that the campaign leading up to new elections on Sept. 17 will make it impossible for him to prepare.
The scheduled dates for the hearing are Oct. 2 and Oct. 3. Netanyahu could be working to form a new government at that time.
Mandelblit responded on Thursday with a resounding no.
“The dissolution of the Knesset and the holding of new elections can’t in and of themselves constitute a consideration that justifies delaying the hearing date in the investigations concerning the prime minister,” said a letter from Mandelblit’s aide, Gil Limon, sent on Thursday, Israeli media reported. The letter also said that the attorney general believes his office has allocated enough time for Netanyahu to prepare.
In February, Mandelblit announced his intention pending the hearing to indict Netanyahu in three separate cases on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust for allegedly trading lucrative official favors for gifts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars – the first time a sitting prime minister would face criminal charges.
Netanyahu has denied all the charges and called the investigations a “witch hunt” by the political left and the media.
It appears there will not be enough time following the new elections in September, for a new Knesset to pass an immunity law, that would automatically grant the prime minister and other lawmakers immunity from prosecution. Proposed legislation for such a law was filed shortly before the dissolution of the Knesset last month.