Israel's Attorney General has told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that there will be no delay over his corruption indictment, despite his legal team's attempts to stall the process.
According to Avichai Mandelblit's office, he wrote a letter to Netanyahu's lawyers yesterday telling them that "if they wish to conduct a hearing over the investigative files pertaining to [Netanyahu's] cases, they must coordinate — by May 10, 2019 — a date for the hearing." The letter also criticised Netanyahu's legal team for failing to collect the evidence against the Prime Minister, despite the fact that the file has been available since 10 April.
The lawyers are currently engaged in a dispute over Netanyahu's legal fees, after a committee in February ruled that he could not use money donated by his cousin, Nathan Milikowsky. Milikowsky – who is also under investigation in Case 3000, often known as the "Submarine Affair" – is said to have donated $300,000 to cover Netanyahu's legal costs. The Prime Minister's legal team opposed the committee's decision, saying that he should not be prevented from receiving donations because of his personal wealth.
However, Mandelblit's office stressed that this dispute over fees "is not our concern" and "does not justify any delay in transferring the core investigative materials to the Prime Minister or to his representatives, and in any event, this does not affect the date of the hearing." That is slated to be held no later than 10 July. However, Mandelblit's office warned, "if the prime minister elects not to hold the hearing, the Attorney General will make a final decision on his cases on the basis of the evidence at his disposal."
The decision not to collect the evidence or set a date for the hearing will be seen as further evidence of the legal team's attempts to delay Netanyahu's indictment or avoid it altogether.
In March, Mandelblit agreed to withhold evidence of Netanyahu's corruption until after the general election following a request by the latter's lawyers. They claimed that they had made the request "out of concern that evidentiary material could leak to the media and potentially affect public sentiment" ahead of the closely-fought General Election.
Netanyahu had previously met with Mandelblit in a bid to prevent him from ruling on the corruption charges during the election period. The Attorney General, however, resisted Netanyahu's pressure, announcing in February that he intended to indict the Israeli leader after several years of investigation.
Netanyahu now faces several counts of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in what have become known as Case 1000, Case 2000 and Case 4000. If convicted of bribery, the Israeli Prime Minister could face up to ten years in prison, while fraud and breach of trust carry sentences of up to three years.