Police aim to complete probe of attorney general case soon

JERUSALEM — Israel's state prosecutor is expected to issue recommendations by Passover on whether criminal charges will be filed against any government officials in connection with the short-lived appointment earlier this year of an attorney general.

State prosecutor Edna Arbel and other senior legal officials held lengthy consultations this week with members of a police investigating team to review police recommendations in the case.

The recommendations come after an inquiry into the January appointment of Jerusalem lawyer and veteran Likud activist Roni Bar-On as attorney general.

When asked whether she expected to make any decisions before April 21, which is Passover eve, Arbel said, "We all want to burn the leavening before the holiday."

Police officials have questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of the government to determine whether there were any illegalities behind the Bar-On appointment.

Bar-On won Cabinet approval Jan. 10, but stepped down two days later amid growing charges in political and legal spheres that he lacked the experience to hold Israel's top legal post.

Two weeks later, the Cabinet unanimously approved District Judge Elyakim Rubinstein to serve as Israel's attorney general.

The police investigation was launched after an Israel Television report alleged that Bar-On was appointed as part of a deal to provide a plea bargain to one of Netanyahu's political allies, Shas Knesset member Aryeh Deri, who is on trial for corruption.

In turn, Deri allegedly promised his party's support for the Hebron agreement, which was coming up for Cabinet approval at the time, the report said.

Should police investigators discover that Netanyahu gave in to pressure from Deri to appoint Bar-On, he could be charged with breach of public trust.

A legal source downplayed this week growing speculation that police evidence indicated that charges could be filed against Deri and Justice Minister Tzachi Hanegbi.

Arbel had not yet made a final decision, the source said.