‘Try me, I’ll win,’ says Netanyahu about corruption trial as elections loom

Netanyahu said he opposes canceling his corruption trial, saying he prefers to defeat the charges in court.

By World Israel News Staff and AP

On Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Channel 12 that he opposes a proposal to stop his trial on charges of corruption, calling the accusations “fabricated.”

“You don’t stop a trial,” said Netanyahu, adding, “I will stand trial and I will win.”

Netanyahu also commented on the upcoming elections on Tuesday of this week, referring to them as “the trial before the public,” which he said will be decided by the Israeli people, “not the prosecutors.”

The prime minister also rejected claims that he plans to fire Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, the official who indicted him in the graft cases.

As Channel 12 aired Netanyahu’s comments on Saturday night, Israelis demonstrated outside the prime minister’s official residence, calling for his ouster ahead of this week’s parliamentary elections.

The protests against Netanyahu have taken place for nine months, but have lost strength in recent months in part due to cold winter weather and after early elections were declared in December. Saturday’s night’s gathering in central Jerusalem was the largest protest in months.

The protesters argue that Netanyahu cannot serve as prime minister while he is on trial for corruption charges. Many also object to his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Netanyahu is counting on his highly successful vaccination campaign to propel him to victory. Some three-quarters of the country’s adult population has been vaccinated in under three months, and the economy has reopened in recent weeks.

Over 6,000 Israelis have died from COVID-19, however, and the economy has been hard hit by repeated lockdowns, and unemployment remains in double digits. Many of the protesters have lost their jobs or seen their businesses suffer due to repeated lockdowns.

“It’s in our hands,” read a sign on a giant Israeli flag. “We are saving the country. We are fighting corruption, we are the hope,” said another banner.

Opinion polls have forecast a tight race on Tuesday, with Netanyahu and his religious and nationalist allies struggling to secure a majority of seats in the 120-member Knesset, or parliament.

If the polls are correct, Israel could be facing weeks of horse-trading and even the possibility of an unprecedented fifth consecutive election in just over two years.