Attorneys for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent a letter to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Tuesday, asking to delay a pre-indictment hearing for the prime minister, saying that the current deadline of July 10 was too soon.
The defense team affirmed that they wanted a hearing, but noted that Netanyahu did not face one case but three complex cases.
Netanyahu’s attorneys made their request on the last day allotted to them by Mandelblit. Mandelblit notified Netanyahu’s lawyers last month “that if they wish to conduct a hearing over the investigative files pertaining to his cases, they must coordinate — by May 10, 2019 — a date for the hearing.”
“The hearing is scheduled to take place before July 10,” Mandelblit wrote, according to his office.
The letter from his office went out after the prime minister’s counsel failed to pick up the evidentiary materials to prepare for the hearing, that they had requested back on April 10.
The reason given for their apparent laxness was a dispute over their legal fees. However, the attorney general’s office was reportedly dismissing this as a pretext for delay.
The dispute “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,” the attorney general’s office said.
“It was further clarified that 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,” it warned.
Mandelblit announced in mid-February that he intends to indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing, on fraud and breach of trust charges in three corruption cases, and on a bribery charge in one of them.
Citing fears of leaks to the press of the evidence against Netanyahu in the middle of the election campaign, the prime minister’s attorneys asked Mandelblit to freeze the hearing process and not release the evidence in the case until after the election, even at the cost of delaying their preparations for the pre-indictment hearings. Mandelblit accepted, releasing the material on April 10, the day after the election.
According to a Channel 12 report last month, Netanyahu’s lawyers have been weighing the option of petitioning the High Court for a postponement of the pre-indictment hearing.
Netanyahu is a suspect in three cases, dubbed by police as Cases 1000, 2000 and 4000, in which investigators have recommended graft indictments.
The prime minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and claims that the investigations are part of efforts by the media and Israeli left to remove him from power, with the support of a dishonest police investigating team overseen by a “weak” attorney general.