JERUSALEMA (AP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on trial in a corruption trial on Monday as the country’s political parties prepared to test whether he should form the next government after a close election or leave with a focus on him. legal places.
Promising to be a day of extraordinary political drama, among the testimonies of witnesses in the Jerusalem courtroom, as well as consultations in the president’s office throughout the city, with a strong emphasis on Netanyahu’s increasingly desperate efforts to stay in power.
He is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister; he came to power in two difficult elections in two years, despite being accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The March 23 election was largely a referendum on his leadership, but did not result in a clear verdict.
At the same time, Israeli political parties began meeting with President Reuven Rivlin to nominate a candidate for the next government.
After each election, the Israeli president is responsible for appointing a party leader who will try to form a ruling majority. That decision is usually clear, but Rivlin faces a difficult choice, given the fragmented election results left by the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, divided by 13 parties with wide-ranging ideological differences.
Neither Netanyahu’s allies nor his enemies secured a ruling majority. His fate could be the fate of Naftali Bennett, a former right-wing ally with whom he has strained ties, and Mansour Abbas, the leader of a small Arab Islamist party that also has no obligation to remain loyal to both Netanyahu and pro-Netanyahu supporters. blocks:
In the Jerusalem District Court, Netanyahu sat down with his lawyers while Prosecutor General Liat Ben-Arin read out the charges against him.
“The relationship between Netanyahu and the defendants has become a currency, something that can be traded,” he said. “Currency can distort the judgment of a civil servant.”
Netanyahu’s lawyers tried to deny it, but were cut off by Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman, who said they had already responded to the charges at the start of the trial. The judge then granted a short leave of absence, during which Netanyahu left the courthouse.
Dozens of supporters and opponents of the Prime Minister gathered outside the courthouse amid heavy police presence on opposite sides of the building, highlighting Israel’s deep divisions. Protesters against Netanyahu have been holding weekly rallies for months, calling for his resignation.
Just a few miles away, a delegation from Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party formally nominated him as prime minister at a meeting with Rivlin.
Netanyahu is accused of accepting bribes in three cases, fraud and breach of trust. The first is that Netanyahu receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from wealthy friends, including Hollywood filmmaker Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Ames Packer. In the second case, Netanyahu is accused of trying to get positive coverage in a major Israeli newspaper in exchange for curbing the spread of a free tabloid in Netanyahu’s favor.
Third, Corporate Case 4000, which will be the first witness on Monday, claims that Netanyahu is backing hundreds of millions of dollars in legislation against the owner of Israeli telecommunications giant Bezek in exchange for positive coverage of his Walla news site.
Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing, denying the allegations against him as part of a media-law enforcement “witch-hunt” to harass him. His trial began last year and could take another two years.
In January, prosecutors argued that Valla had been asked to change 315 cases to change her cover, so it was more favorable for Netanyahu ընտանիքի his family. They said 150 of them were involved in Netanyahu himself.
Bezeq CEO Shaul Elovich is alleged to have “severely pressured” former Ilan Yeshua, the former editor-in-chief of Walla, to change the site’s articles to meet the needs of Netanyahu and his family. Yeshua took over after Netanyahu’s departure.
Israeli law does not require prime ministers to resign as long as they are indicted, and Netanyahu has refused to do so. It has left the country deeply divided. The government of emergency unity set up last year to tackle the coronavirus crisis was embroiled in a political skirmish, disbanded less than a year later due to its inability to approve the budget.
In 2019, Netanyahu succeeded Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, as the country’s longest-serving prime minister, officially serving from 2009 for several years in the 1990s.