Netanyahu trial resumes

“We have to finish this,” said Judge Moshe Bar-Am.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The combined corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resumed Monday after a break of over two months due to the high holiday season and the outbreak of war against Hamas, with lawyers for the defense and the justices saying the time has come to finish the proceedings.

Jacques Chen, attorney for Shaul and Iris Elovitch in what is dubbed Case 4000, asked that the case only be heard twice a week, as he has been on active duty in the reserves since October 7. Part of his legal team was also called up by emergency orders, he added.

To shorten the time spent in court, he said that he sent his prosecutorial colleague a list of six witnesses of the 22 to be called in who could be made redundant.

In addition, he estimated that the testimonies of the rest can be completed within 15-16 hearings, so “it is possible to advance the trial by hearing it two days a week.”

The prosecution said it could wrap its side up by January in the Elovitch case, and estimated that another month or at most two would then be needed for to present the state’s position in the other two, Cases 1000 and 2000.

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It was unclear whether the prosecution included in its estimation the time the defense will need for cross-examining those witnesses, nor their possible recall to the stand by the state as a result of the cross-examination.

The defense will then present its own side in the three cases, with its witnesses being cross-examined by the prosecution.

Although he and his two fellow justices have not decided yet whether to agree to Chen’s request or go the opposite route and have the proceedings four days a week, Judge Moshe Bar-Am commented, “We have to finish this.”

The trial has been ongoing, in fits and starts, over the last four years. It is being resumed as the Justice Ministry’s emergency order restricting trials to emergency cases due to the war has expired.

Case 4000 contains the most serious charge, bribery, against Netanyahu, as he is accused of ensuring that the government provide regulatory favors to Walla and Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch to the tune of hundreds of millions of shekels, in return for favorable news coverage on the Walla news site.

In Case 2,000, Netanyahu is suspected of fraud and breach of trust for allegedly agreeing to help Yedioth Ahronoth owner Noni Mozes regain market share for his newspaper by passing a law that would hurt his main competitor, Israel Hayom, in return again for more positive news coverage. This may be considered a weak case, as Netanyahu has pointed out that his government torpedoed the law.

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In Case 1,000, the same charges apply for Netanyahu having allegedly received hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of champagne, cigars, and jewelry for his wife from two billionaire friends, one of whom, Arnon Milchan, allegedly sought and received help from the prime minister in certain business and private affairs. Netanyahu and Milchan have both said that the expensive items were just gifts with no strings attached to them.

Minister in the Justice Ministry David Amsalem slammed the restart Sunday, posting to X, “War? Hostages? Evacuees? Economy? Not at all. What’s most important now is to renew Netanyahu’s trial and distract the prime minister with absurd testimonies and delusional trifles…. This is a disgrace like no other.”