Netanyahu ally says voters, not judiciary, will decide PM's legal destiny



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A Likud lawmaker considered loyalist of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israeli voters – not the judiciary – will decide the prime minister's legal destiny, signaling renewed pressure to protect him from corruption proceedings after the elections of 17 of September.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced in mid-February his intention to indict the prime minister, awaiting a hearing, on fraud and breach of trust charges in three cases, and on a charge of bribery in one of them. Netanyahu's lawyer said on Monday night that the prime minister would attend the hearing, scheduled for Oct. 2, after being postponed for several months.

"The attorney general and the legal system will have to consider the election results because people are the sovereign," Likud MK Miki Zohar told Kan public radio. "People determine social norms."

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"Those who are responsible for Netanyahu's legal destiny are just the Israeli nation and the Israeli citizens," Zohar said. "If they go to the ballot box in a few months and again tell the prosecutor general, the police, the left and the media that they want Netanyahu as their prime minister – with all due respect, he will remain as prime minister. .

In a complete retreat from Netanyahu's repeated remarks in the run-up to the Knesset's April 9 election – which ended in a stalemate that forced a new national vote – Zohar said he had no doubt that the hearing would result in a decision to indict him premier due to supposed leftist pressure on the Mandelblit.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a farewell ceremony for Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the Justice Ministry's office in Jerusalem on June 4, 2019. (Parush Fairies / Flash90)

Netanyahu has said on several occasions earlier this year that the charges "would collapse at the hearing." He also denied the intention to press for immunity after the election, but later found that immunity was a central requirement of Likud in failed coalition talks.

Netanyahu was reportedly trying to form a coalition after the April 9 election, in which Likud members and their allies would initiate or support legislative efforts to avoid prosecution – first easing their way to immunity through the Knesset and then canceling the Supreme Court to annul such immunity.

The latest change would be achieved as part of a sweeping reform of the Supreme Court's role under which judges would have denied its current authority to overturn legislation, and Knesset and government decisions deemed unconstitutional. Plans for such "priority" legislation have been singled out for a possible constitutional revolution that critics warned could break the brakes and counterweights at the heart of Israeli democracy.

Netanyahu denies all allegations against him, claiming they come from a witch hunt backed by the left opposition, the media, the police and the prosecution, led by a "weak" attorney general.

On Monday, public broadcaster Kan reported that when Netanyahu recently dismissed Betzalel Smotrich of the Union of Right-wing Parties for his Justice Portfolio, his confidant informed Smotrich that he was deprecated because Netanyahu's legal future would be in the hands of those want it to be named. for the post.

Natan Eshel, Netanyahu's former chief of staff and a key figure in the failed coalition talks, would have told Smotrich: "The next Minister of Justice will hold the key to the legal future of the Prime Minister and his family. There's no way you can get this key. "

Netanyahu eventually appointed Likud supporter Amir Ohana, who is among Likud's only senior members, who publicly endorsed Netanyahu's commitment to securing immunity from prosecution.

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