(December 27, 2018 / Israel Hayom) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told associates on Wednesday that he has no intention of stepping down, even if he faces a criminal indictment.
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is currently reviewing police recommendations to file corruption charges against the prime ministerin three investigations, known as Case 1,000, Case 2,000 and Case 4,000.
Case 1,000 centers on gifts Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, allegedly received from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian tycoon James Packer.
Case 2,000 focuses on an alleged deal between Netanyahu and Yediot Achronot publisher Arnon Mozes in which Yediot would soften its aggressive anti-Netanyahu tone in return for the prime minister acting to curtail Yediot rival Israel Hayom’s activities to benefit Yediot financially.
Case 4,000 revolves around allegations of a deal in which Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israeli telecom corporation Bezeq, ensured positive coverage for Netanyahu in the Bezeq-owned Walla news website in exchange for the prime minister promoting government regulations worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the company.
Mendelblit said Monday that the government’s decision to call early elections on April 9 will not affect his decisions on the matter.
Speaking with close associates Wednesday, Netanyahu said he doubts Mendelblit will file an indictment during an election campaign, saying that even if he must face trial, he plans to do it from the Prime Minister’s Office—assuming he is elected.
Basic Law: The government states that the prime minister must resign only if he is convicted of a crime. Moreover, unlike ministers, who are required to resign if they are convicted in a Magistrates’ Court, regardless of an appeals process, a prime minister is not required to resign until such time as the legal process is exhausted in full, meaning until a potential conviction is upheld by the Supreme Court.
The High Court of Justice has ruled in the past that public norms require a prime minister to resign if he is indicted, but that may prove legally tricky to enforce: if an indicted minister resigns and is later acquitted, he or she may resume their ministerial position, but if the prime minister resigns over an indictment, the entire government effectively resigns with him and reclaiming the position in case of an acquittal mandates holding elections.
Likud insiders said Wednesday that Netanyahu’s plan to remain in office even if indicted is politically feasible.
Assuming he is elected for a fifth term, Netanyahu’s next coalition will be based on partners who have already stated they were willing to join the government even if he is indicted, one source explained.
A decision to file criminal charges against Netanyahu during the election campaign would make Mendelblit the target of merciless attacks by senior Likud officials, and it will also shift the focus of the entire elections, another official said.