Date in court means Benjamin Netanyahu has no time to pass his new immunity law

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has forced the Israeli Prime Minister to hold his pre-trial hearing in October, just after the election


Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to hold his pre-trial hearing at the beginning of October, just two weeks after the election.

The timing does not allow Mr Netanyahu time to pass legislation in the Knesset giving him immunity from prosecution.

After weeks of terse exchanges between the prime minister’s defence team and the attorney general’s office, Amit Hadad, currently Mr Netanyahu’s lead lawyer, said in a statement: “We will come to the hearing, but it would have been right to reconsider the date and postpone it.”

Mr Netanyahu’s lawyers had demanded a year’s delay from the original hearing date in July.

The attorney general agreed to grant an additional three months and, following the dissolution of the Knesset two weeks ago, they renewed the request, claiming that the prime minister could not prepare his defence while fighting an election campaign.

Mr Mandelblit’s senior assistant, Gil Limon, responded in a letter that the date had been determined “according to the (prime minister’s) work-load.

In fact, the assumption had been that this would be an especially busy period of government work with the forming of new government and the return of the Knesset to regular legislation.”

The reference to legislation is a pointed one, as Mr Netanyahu’s now-aborted coalition was expected to pass laws bolstering the immunity of Knesset members from prosecution and limiting the powers of the High Court to intervene.

Even if Mr Netanyahu forms a coalition after the September 17 election, it is extremely unlikely to pass similar legislation before Mr Mandelblit decides whether to indict the prime minister on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

The disadvantageous timing of the pre-trial hearing was not the only bad piece of legal news for the Netanyahu family this week.

On Wednesday, after holding out for months, Sara Netanyahu was forced to sign a plea bargain in which she admitted to having “taken advantage of a someone else’s mistake”.

She agreed to pay a 55,000 shekel (£12,100) fine and compensation for having misused public funds to pay for catered private meals at the prime minister’s residence.

The previous day, Shira Raban, a former cleaner at the residence, gave evidence in court in her case against Mrs Netanyahu, claiming: “I was abused from day one.”

In another investigation in which Mr Netanyahu is not currently implicated — the submarines case — police have recommended charging Mickey Ganor, the Israeli representative of German shipyard Thyssenkrupp, for giving bribes to smooth a purchase.

Mr Ganor was originally going to serve as state’s witness in the case but retracted and will now be indicted.

Along with him, a number of senior figures are expected to be charged, including Mr Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, his lawyer of four decades and his appointee for national security advisor.

The attorney general decided in 2017 that Mr Netanyahu was not a suspect in the case but further investigation of his financial dealings could change that.

Mr Netanyahu has demanded to be allowed to fundraise his legal fees from wealthy friends and relatives.

In his petitions to the Civil Service committee, which authorises public officials to do so, he disclosed owning shares in a company belongong to his cousin that did business with Thyssenkrupp.

Police and justice officials are now checking whether these details could serve as the basis for future police investigations and Mr Netanyahu’s inclusion in the case.

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