Israel attorney general: Benjamin Netanyahu could be indicted before election

Israeli PM faces possible charges in three corruption cases as he seeks to win April 9 general election

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a visit to an Israeli military base near the city of Petah Tikva, on January 30 2019. / AFP / MENAHEM KAHANA
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Israel’s Attorney General says he will not rule out charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the country’s April 9 general election, rejecting the Likud leader’s plea to delay a decision until after the vote.

Avichai Mandelblit said his team was examining the case and intended to make a decision as soon as possible.

Mr Netanyahu is facing possible charges in three corruption cases. He denies any wrongdoing and has called them a witch hunt.

Mr Mandelblit’s announcement on Friday came as opinion polls showed former Israeli army chief Benny Gantz emerging as a strong challenger to Mr Netanyahu.

But Mr Netanyahu remains the favourite to win, and serve as prime minister of Israel for a fifth term.

Mr Mandelblit said he told Mr Netanyahu’s lawyers that “there is no impediment to making and publishing a decision … even before the election date”.

The attorney general said that not doing so would undermine the principles of everyone being equal under the law and the right of the public to know about decisions of such importance.

Mr Netanyahu said on Facebook that Mr Mandelblit seemed to be “giving in to pressure from the left and the media” to indict him “at any cost, even when there is nothing, as long as it’s before the election”.

The embattled prime minister said he would not bow out of the general election race even if Mr Mandelblit decided to accept police recommendations to indict him.

Investigating officers say Mr Netanyahu granted regulatory favours to telecommunications company Bezeq Telecom Israel in return for more positive coverage on a news website belonging to its owner.

In a second case, police say Mr Netanyahu received expensive gifts from some wealthy friends.

A third investigation focused on suspicions that the prime minister negotiated a deal with a newspaper for better coverage in return for promises to back legislation that would have limited the circulation of a rival publication.

Mr Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, a psychologist, is on trial for fraud and stands accused of misusing state funds to order more than $100,000 (Dh367,250) worth of meals from restaurants.