Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Israeli media, and what he characterized as “left-wing demonstrators,” of applying “brutal and inhuman pressure” on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to issue an indictment against him “at any price.”
In a video posted Thursday evening the Israeli premier said his opponents wanted Mandelblit to use the period before the general election on April 9 to summon him for a hearing, a necessary move before any final decision to indict.
Netanyahu poured scorn on that idea, saying it was clear to everyone that it would be “impossible to complete an indictment hearing before the election.”
Wrapping up their investigations last year, Israeli police said they had uncovered enough evidence to indict Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. A final decision whether to prosecute lies with Mandelblit – who is considering three corruption cases involving the Prime Minister.
Netanyahu denies wrongdoing: “I believe nothing will come of it because there is nothing in it,” he said in December.
It comes after Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, voted on December 26 to dissolve itself, triggering early elections in April – nearly eight months earlier than required by law.
Using the video to dismiss his opponents, and address his Likud party supporters directly, the Israeli premier likened himself to a superstar footballer, saying “(The other political parties) know that our team always wins, so they are trying to pressure the referee to take Messi out of the game.”
Mandelblit defended himself and the judicial process Thursday, addressing suggestions from one of Netanyahu’s closest allies, David Amsalem, that much of the Israeli public would reject any move to indict the Prime Minister.
The Attorney General said such comments were “irresponsible” and an attempt to “undermine the public’s trust in the impartiality of our decision,” Israeli media reported.
Netanyahu is currently in his fourth term as prime minister.
CNN’s Bianca Britton contributed from London.