Israel Rejects Netanyahu Plea to Delay Indictment Decision

(Bloomberg) -- Israel’s attorney general rejected a request from Benjamin Netanyahu to delay his decision on whether to indict the prime minister on corruption charges until after national elections.

The move increases the likelihood that Netanyahu will be forced to campaign for a record-setting fifth term facing legal peril.

The Justice Ministry said in an emailed statement that Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit can “consider filing an indictment in some or all of the cases involving the prime minister, subject to a hearing, before the elections.” It saw “no impediments” to that decision being published.

Israel Rejects Netanyahu Plea to Delay Indictment Decision

“The public prosecution is examining the investigation materials in a professional and orderly manner, which is intended to make a fundamental and professional decision as soon as possible,” the ministry said, citing a letter from Mandelblit to Netanyahu’s lawyers.

Netanyahu leads his rivals in polling ahead of the April 9 elections, but an indictment could undermine his attempt to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

Polls show Benny Gantz, a popular former military chief and political newcomer, as the opposition figure most likely to deliver a serious contest at a time when many Israelis are despairing over the country’s politics and its future in a volatile region. With just over two months until the vote, it’s not clear if the opposition can muster enough strength to overpower Netanyahu’s coalition of nationalist and religious parties.

A poll released Wednesday showed Gantz’s party jumping to 19 seats in the 120 seat-Knesset, a gain from his previous level around 15 seats. That puts him in second place, behind Netanyahu’s 29 seats in the poll, a slight decline.

Israel’s prime minister is a suspect in three separate corruption investigations, where police recommended he be indicted for taking thousands of dollars in gifts from wealthy friends and exchanging favors with businessmen who offered favorable media coverage. He has consistently denied wrongdoing and categorized the proceedings as a political witch hunt by left-wing opponents

A post on Netanyahu’s Facebook page accused his challengers of “pressuring the attorney general,” including recording a 38-second clip of prominent Israeli politicians and activists calling for Mandelblit to indict the prime minister.

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