Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial for alleged corruption will start today, according to agency reports. According to international affairs experts, this is the first time a serving Israeli leader would be facing multiple charges bordering on bribery, fraud, and breach of trust and consequently face trial while in office.
Mr. Netanyahu has been charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust – allegations which he strongly denies. The 70-year-old has rejected calls by opponents to step down while he fights the cases.
It comes just a week after he was sworn into office as head of a rare national unity government. His political rival, Benny Gantz, agreed to share power following three inconclusive elections in a year.
Mr. Netanyahu has been indicted in three cases, known as 1,000, 2,000 and 4,000: Case 1,000 – Fraud and breach of trust: he is accused of receiving gifts – mainly cigars and bottles of champagne – from powerful businessmen in exchange for favors.
Case 2,000 – Fraud and breach of trust: Mr. Netanyahu is accused of offering to help improve the circulation of Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot in exchange for positive coverage
Case 4,000 – Bribery, fraud and breach of trust: as PM and minister of communications at the time of the alleged offence, Mr. Netanyahu is accused of promoting regulatory decisions favorable to the controlling shareholder in the Bezeq telecom giant, Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for positive coverage by Mr. Elovitch’s Walla news site.
Mr. Netanyahu has strongly denied all the charges against him, branding them a “witch-hunt” by political opponents, and has vowed to clear his name.
“Such a thing has never happened before in Israel, so there is no precedent”, said one analyst.
It would be recalled that a former prime minister, Ehud Olmert, stepped down as party leader when he was under investigation for corruption in 2008 but technically remained prime minister until elections the following year – polls which brought Benjamin Netanyahu to power.
Agency reports indicate that the trial is unlikely to affect controversial plans to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank
An international affairs analyst who is at home with Israeli politics posit that “even if he is convicted, Mr. Netanyahu will not be required to resign unless and until any appeals are exhausted – which could, in theory, be many months or years into the future.”
Recall also that in Ehud Olmert’s case, the former prime minister went on trial in 2009 and it was only after he was convicted that he began serving his sentence in 2016 due to the long legal process.