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Israeli attorney general wrestles with indictment timing

Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is grasping for advice on how his decision on indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could affect the early elections in April.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends Brazil's new President Jair Bolsonaro swearing-in ceremony at Brazil's National Congress, in Brasilia, Brazil January 1, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado - RC1CDEEAD680
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The next station of the Israeli attorney general’s Via Dolorosa is the second to last. Avichai Mandelblit is supposed to announce if he will close the investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or put him on trial for one or all of the charges. Sitting on the attorney general’s desk are three police recommendations to try Netanyahu for bribery. This decision will be almost final, since it is subject to a hearing to which Netanyahu will be invited and in which the prime minister and his attorneys will try to convince the attorney general to close the files.

The timing is critical, only a few weeks before elections now scheduled for April 9. It's no wonder Mandelblit is searching high and low for salvation. On Jan. 1, Channel 2 reported that Mandelblit met with a forum that included former attorneys general and state's attorneys to draw on their experience before making a decision. Among his concerns are: Is it appropriate to publicize an important decision like this, before general elections? Would it be viewed as crass political interference, or is perhaps the opposite true? Not to announce something that everyone already knows could be a form of interference too. One way or the other, the situation has turned the April 9 election into one of the most important votes in Israeli history because of its explosive implications.

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