What Happened: Israel's attorney general has rejected a request from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to delay his pre-indictment, The Times of Israel reported June 6. The hearing had already been pushed back from July until October. Netanyahu must now decide by June 10 if he will go forward with the pre-indictment hearing; if he does not, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit could indict him within days or weeks. Separately, Netanyahu appointed Amir Ohana, a Likud loyalist and the party's first openly gay member of the Knesset, as interim justice minister. Netanyahu reportedly told his coalition partners the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party that Ohana was selected to attract the gay vote, and that he was a temporary appointee to assuage UTJ fears that Ohana would pursue pro-LGBT policies.
Why It Matters: Netanyahu is running out of options to prevent the electoral fallout from a possible indictment should he win in Israel's Sept. 17 election, since he would likely be in the middle of trying to form a government when the pre-indictment hearing is set to happen. Meanwhile, his reassurances to UTJ highlight tensions between the secularists of Likud and the ultra-Orthodox, whose divergent views on policy make for a continually difficult balancing act for Netanyahu.
Background: Netanyahu has sought to deflect the effects of a corruption investigation on his re-election effort via various legal moves, but has so far been unsuccessful. Policy splits between secular nationalist parties and religious parties are a major reason Netanyahu failed to form a coalition after Israel's last elections.
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