Mandelblit: Election Won’t Affect Netanyahu Probe

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -
Netanyahu indictment
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90, File)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said Monday that the election campaign will have no effect on when he decides whether to file corruption charges against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Mandelblit’s investigation will loom over the election campaign.

But in a statement, the Justice Ministry said the probe will continue “as planned” and “will not depend on political events.”

Police have recommended that Netanyahu be indicted in a series of corruption probes, and aides to Mandelblit have also reportedly recommended indicting the prime minister.

The attorney general makes the final decision. Netanyahu is hoping that will come after he is re-elected, a development that could make it much harder to file charges.

Netanyahu has angrily dismissed the accusations against him, characterizing them as part of a media-driven witch hunt that is obsessed with removing him from office. He has vowed to carry on and keep serving.

Reuven Hazan, a political scientist at Yerushalayim’s Hebrew University, said he doesn’t expect the attorney general to make a final decision in the coming months and Netanyahu’s move seems to be trying to “pre-empt” a potential indictment by getting re-elected first.

“He wants to win. He wants to turn around to the attorney general and say, ‘Before you decide to prosecute me, pay attention. The people of Israel have re-elected me for a fourth time,'” Hazan explained, adding that if Netanyahu is re-elected, it would send a message to the attorney general that “you cannot overturn the results of a democratic election.”

However, Netanyahu may still run into trouble if he plans to count on the support of his current senior coalition partner again. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, head of the Kulanu party, reiterated his stance that “a prime minister under indictment after a hearing cannot serve.”