With a black sanitary mask on the lower face, Benjamin Netanyahu, 71, remained for about 20 minutes in the courtroom of the Jerusalem court. The Israeli prime minister is on trial on charges of corruption, fraud and breach of trust in three cases. On Monday, he again dismissed the corruption charges against him in a brief court appearance on Monday, six weeks away from elections crucial for his political survival.
“I endorse the response written on my behalf,” the prime minister said, referring to a letter written by his lawyers and presented to justice last month, saying he is not guilty. The record holder for the longevity of Israeli prime ministers with 15 years in office, Benjamin Netanyahu is the first head of government in Israel’s history to be tried while in office.
Outside the courthouse, dozens of demonstrators protested against the prime minister calling for his departure. “Get out”, “You shall not steal”, can we read on the banners. “We’re here to sweep away all the dirt and all the corruption that [Benyamin Netanyahou] has created in recent years, ”Claudie Manoque, a demonstrator, told AFP. “Netanyahu is a corrupt man, who wants to establish a dictatorship in Israel, we will not let him.”
In court, one of the lawyers, Boaz Ben Zur, accused Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who had been appointed by Benjamin Netanyahu, of mismanaging the case. The resumption of the trial was made possible by the easing of anti-coronavirus restrictions and after a postponement of the hearing originally scheduled for January.
« 1.000, 2.000, 4.000 »
Benjamin Netanyahu, who does not enjoy any immunity, denounced “ridiculous” charges at the start of his trial in May 2020. His lawyers had asked the courts for several months to study the evidence against their client.
The Prime Minister is on trial in three cases. The Bezeq file, also known as “Case 4.000”, where he is accused of trying to secure favorable coverage by the Walla site against government favors which could have brought in millions of dollars to Shaul Elovitch, then boss of the giant Israeli telecoms company Bezeq, of which Walla is a member.
Benjamin Netanyahu, who at the time also held the Communications portfolio, denied seeking favorable coverage from Walla in exchange for his 2015 approval of a Bezeq merger with satellite TV distributor Yes.
In the second case, Mediagate or “Affaire 2000”, he is accused of having sought to secure favorable coverage, but this time of the most widely read paid daily in Israel, the Yediot Aharonot, in exchange for a possible restrictive law. the distribution of the free newspaper Israel Hayom, its main competitor.
In the third case, “The 1,000 Affair”, Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his family are suspected of having received gifts – luxury cigars, bottles of champagne and jewelry – for more than 700,000 shekels (around 175,000 euros). the share of personalities in exchange for financial or personal favors. Benjamin Netanyahu said he had received a legal opinion from experts concluding that he had the right to accept gifts from close friends and denies granting any favors.
Impact on elections
At the opening of his trial, Benjamin Netanyahu had just formed a unity government with his rival Benny Gantz. But since the demonstrations against the Prime Minister have multiplied and the ruling coalition has shattered. As a result, new general elections are scheduled for March 23 – the fourth in less than two years – which raises fears about an impact of the trial on the vote.
Yariv Levin, Speaker of Parliament and close to Benjamin Netanyahu, said in Israel Hayom that he feared “unprecedented interference in the elections” if the court presented “now” its evidence against the prime minister. The electoral battle is also far from won for Benyamin Netanyahu who hopes to rally a majority of seats in Parliament in order to possibly pass a law allowing his judicial immunity.
His party, the Likud (right), remains at the top of the polls with 29 seats out of 120, ahead of the centrist Yaïr Lapid (17) and the right-wing rebel Gideon Saar (14). But he would not manage to reach, with his various allies, the threshold of majority (61).