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As Knesset is sworn in, and Netanyahu given mandate to form a coalition, prime minister’s trial enters second day

Netanyahu was nicknamed "Kim" after North Korean dictator by staff at a media outlet, witness says

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen as he arrives for a court hearing at the District Court in Jerusalem on corruption charges on April 5, 2021. (Photo: Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

The trial against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu entered its second day on Tuesday, hours before the 24th Knesset was sworn in and the prime minister was given the mandate to form a government.

This is the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister is on trial as there is no law to prevent that. The trial is expected to last several months to years unless Netanyahu and his defense team agree to a plea bargain. Netanyahu could face up to three years in prison for fraud and breach of trust while the charge of bribery carries up to 10 years in prison, if convicted. 

Netanyahu is on trial for corruption and bribery charges including trying to garner favorable media coverage for political favors.

After his testimony yesterday, the first witness – Ilan Yeshua, former CEO of the news outlet Walla – said this morning he had received “unpleasant messages” after his testimony the day before.

On Monday, Yeshua testified that he and other staff members referred to Netanyahu as “Kim Jong Un,” the dictator of North Korea and to his wife Sara Netanyahu as “Ri Sol-ju,” Kim’s wife because he and a senior editor at Walla felt pressured to spin coverage in the prime minister's favor.

“All the requests of politicians over 13 years might be equivalent to one week of requests from the prime minister and his wife [over three years],” he said. “Also, the quality of their requests was not as intense as what was here” with the Netanyahus.

Today, Yeshua testified that Shaul and Iris Elovitch asked to meet him urgently in 2017 in order to coordinate their stories about Walla’s positive coverage of the prime minister and that Shaul told him to destroy all text messages related to the issue and even destroy his cellphone.

Hundreds more witnesses are expected to testify in a trial that could take months to years.

Yesterday, in opening arguments, prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari said the prime minister allegedly abused the powers of his office and used the “immense power of his office” to advance “his personal desires.”

Netanyahu, who denies the charges, called the trial a “witch hunt.” His attorney said the first witness is not credible.

"There are dramatic gaps between the testimony he gave to police and the version he gave here," Boaz Ben Tzur said.

But Prosecutor Yehudit Tirosh insisted Yeshua's testimony in court is "consistent with his confessions to the police."

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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