Bibi on the of­fen­sive in bat­tle for his legacy

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ANSHEL PFEFFER

BEN­JAMIN NE­TANYAHU has gone all-out in an effort to pre­vent Attorney Gen­eral Avichai Man­del­blit from an­nounc­ing his de­ci­sion on po­ten­tial in­dict­ments against him be­fore the April 9 Knes­set elec­tion.

On Mon­day evening, the prime min­is­ter de­liv­ered what was billed as a “dra­matic state­ment” from his of­fices in Jerusalem — but it turned out to be lit­tle more than a rep­e­ti­tion of old claims against the po­lice and prose­cu­tors.

There will come a mo­ment next month that could de­cide not only the elec­tion but the fate of Mr Ne­tanyahu.

Con­trary to ear­lier ex­pec­ta­tions, the attorney gen­eral is now sched­uled to an­nounce his de­ci­sion on the three crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions against the prime min­is­ter next month.

The con­sen­sus in the Jus­tice Min­istry is that Avichai Man­del­blit will en­dorse the rec­om­men­da­tions — by not only the po­lice but the district and state attorney of­fices — to in­dict Mr Ne­tanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in at least two of the cor­rup­tion cases.

A po­ten­tial de­ci­sion to in­dict does not mean that the prime min­is­ter

must re­sign. Hear­ings will have to be sched­uled first and, even if the de­ci­sion be­comes fi­nal, Is­raeli law does not ex­pressly for­bid him from re­main­ing in of­fice.

But it will be a po­lit­i­cal earth­quake nev­er­the­less: no serv­ing Is­raeli prime min­is­ter has ever been in­dicted in of­fice. In pre­vi­ous cases where they were un­der sus­pi­cion, they ei­ther re­signed in ad­vance of a po­ten­tial in­dict­ment or the attorney gen­eral de­cided not to charge them.

It also means that even if Mr Ne­tanyahu’s Likud was to win the elec­tion — as the polls are pre­dict­ing — it will be ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to form a last­ing govern­ment, as a num­ber of party lead­ers of po­ten­tial coali­tion part­ners have al­ready made it clear that they won’t serve un­der an in­dicted prime min­is­ter.

In his tele­vised state­ment on Mon­day, the prime min­is­ter said that it would be un­just for the attorney gen­eral to an­nounce his in­ten­tions be­fore the elec­tion, when there would not be suf­fi­cient time to sched­ule a court hear­ing and al­low Mr Ne­tanyahu to for­mally re­spond to the al­le­ga­tions.

He has made the same claim re­peat­edly over the last few days — in­clud­ing at a press con­fer­ence dur­ing his visit last week to Brazil and in a video posted to his Face­book page.

But on Mon­day he added some­thing new: that he had twice been re­fused the op­por­tu­nity to con­front the witnesses tes­ti­fy­ing against him. How­ever un­der Is­raeli law, no sus­pect has this right.

Is­rael’s Jus­tice Min­istry re­sponded in a state­ment say­ing that “all the stages of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion have been car­ried out pro­fes­sion­ally and scrupu­lously.”

PHOTO: KAN

The PM spoke live on tele­vi­sion

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