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Mandelblit: We are not hounding the prime minister

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit vowed on Thursday that his office would “work quickly” on the cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but “not at the expense of quality decisions and professionalism” and “would not be influenced by anything other than the evidence and the law.”

Speaking at a conference sponsored by the economic newspaper Globes, Mandelblit urged the public not to believe the leaks from the investigations that have been broadcast recently and those that would continue to be published before his team makes its decision.

“We aren’t pursuing anyone, only truth and justice,” he said.

Channel 2 reported that Netanyahu’s attorneys sent a letter to Mandelblit asking him to denounce the leaks.

“Please make clear that the game is not fixed,” the attorneys reportedly wrote the attorney-general.

Mandelblit spoke the morning after State’s Attorney Shai Nitzan revealed that there had been significant progress in Netanyahu’s cases and reports that his office had recommended to Mandelblit to indict Netanyahu on bribery charges in two of the cases, and fraud and breach of trust in another case.

The reports said Mandelblit would preliminarily indict Netanyahu in February or March, pending a hearing that would take place in six months.

Netanyahu’s lawyer Amit Hadad said on Thursday that the prime minister would not accept a plea agreement, in which he would decline to run for reelection in return for easing the charges against him.

Speaking on Army Radio, Hadad vigorously denied reports in The Jerusalem Post and other media outlets that before his October 16 death, Netanyahu’s longtime family lawyer Jacob Weinroth had urged him to accept a plea deal to salvage his dignity.

“That is simply untrue,” Hadad said. “Jacob thought with all his heart that Netanyahu is innocent. We are light years away from an indictment. There cannot and will not be an indictment.”
Hadad downplayed the recommendations of the State’s Attorney’s Office and state police to indict Netanyahu, noting that in 2004, then-state’s attorney Edna Arbel and the police recommended charges against then-prime minister Ariel Sharon but then-attorney-general Menachem Mazuz closed the case.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said on Thursday that if “the attorney-general decides to indict Netanyahu after the hearing, he cannot continue to serve as prime minister.”

Coalition chairman David Amsalem disagreed, noting that according to the law, Netanyahu could remain prime minister after an indictment and while on trial.

Amsalem revealed that he would try to pass the controversial haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment bill into law by the January 15 deadline set by the Supreme Court. He warned haredi parties that if they do not cooperate with the legislation, he would pass it with the support of the opposition Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu parties.

“If we pass it with the opposition, it would show there is more consensus,” Amsalem told Army Radio.

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