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Netanyahu makes court appearance as corruption trial continues

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at the Jerusalem District Court earlier this morning as his trial on corruption and bribery charges is set to begin

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen as he arrives for a court hearing at the District Court in Jerusalem on Feb. 8, 2021, PM (Photo: Reuven Kastro/POOL)

More than one year ago, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust against the prime minister, who denies the charges. The trial’s start has been delayed several times due to COVID-19 lockdowns that shuttered the courts, as well as other institutions and businesses on and off for the past year.

Today, lawyers will present opening statements and the first witness against the prime minister will testify.

Security was heavy in the surrounding area as an estimated 1,000 protestors clamored outside the courthouse carrying signs of “Crime Minister.”

Netanyahu is not expected to stay after the opening statement. In fact, the defense tried to get him out of being present at all today.

“Since the prime minister had no connection with Ilan Yeshua, and therefore his presence would not contribute anything in any way to the hearing, Netanyahu’s lawyers will request an exemption from the questioning of (witness Ilan) Yeshua,” a Netanyahu spokesman said. “This is an accepted request in cases similar to this one.”

But the prosecution pushed back: “The prosecution believes that there is a substantive need for the defendant [Netanyahu] to be present for the opening statement, which has the status of opening the entire prosecution case, both in terms of the defendant hearing the allegations directly and without intermediaries, and in terms of the perception of doing justice.”

The former CEO of Walla news outlet, Ilan Yeshua, is expected to be the first witness to be called to the stand today.

Prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari said there is concrete and circumstantial evidence against Netanyahu including recorded conversations and text messages.

At the same time, across the city, President Reuven Rivlin was meeting with the heads of parties to receive recommendations on who should be the first person to get the first stab at building a coalition. And it is still anyone’s guess. The March 23 elections produced inconclusive results with Likud, Netanyahu’s party, receiving the most seats, 30. But Netanyahu doesn’t seem to have enough supporting parties to reach a 61-seat or more majority at the moment. 

Party leaders have been engaged in talks over the past two weeks over possible collaborations to create a ruling coalition.

The president will spend the next two days speaking with representatives of the various parties and is scheduled to announce his decision by Wednesday of who he believes is best suited to become prime minister.

Developing story...

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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