Prime Minister’s day in court: Netanyahu pleads not guilty to corruption charges

After pleading not guilty, Netanyahu asked to be excused, a request swiftly granted by the judges.

By David Isaac, World Israel News  

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded not guilty to corruption charges at the Jerusalem District Court on Monday morning.

After pleading not guilty, Netanyahu asked to be excused, a request swiftly granted by the judges. At the end of the day’s hearing, Netanyahu’s lawyers asked for a three-month delay before continuing the trial. It has been previously reported that the trial may take up to three years.

Also present at the hearing were Netanyahu’s co-defendants, businessmen Shaul Elovitch and his wife, Iris, and newspaper magnet Arnon Moses, owner of newspaper Yediot Aharonot.

Netanyahu was indicted last year for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate cases. Those corruption cases, for which he was formally indicted in November 2019, became the main argument against his continued leadership in three successive elections by his opponents.

However, the Israeli public, through the ballot box, has stubbornly refused to jettison Netanyahu, consistently voting to keep him at the nation’s helm. Netanyahu’s supporters have argued this shows that Israelis view the corruption charges with the same jaundiced eye as does the prime minister – as nothing more than an attempt by his political opponents to unseat him through the courts.

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Polls suggest that attitudes have not changed. The Likud is predicted to win the most Knesset seats in the next election. Polls also find Israelis rank Netanyahu as most competent to lead the government in comparison to the other candidates. New elections will be held on March 23.

Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed the charges against him as a “witch-hunt” orchestrated by biased law enforcement and media.

Netanyahu stands accused of accepting lavish gifts from wealthy friends and offering to grant favors to powerful media moguls in exchange for favorable coverage of him and his family.

Of the three cases, Case 4000 is considered the most serious and the one pulling the most media coverage as it’s the only case with bribery as the central charge. Fraud and breach of trust are considered lesser charges.

At the start of his trial last May, Netanyahu was flanked by a cohort of Likud party allies as he railed against the media, police, judges and prosecutors. He said the trial aimed to “depose a strong, right-wing prime minister, and thus remove the nationalist camp from the leadership of the country for many years.”

AP contributed to this report.