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Corruption trial of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu gets underway

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing in the case.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: PA Images

ISRAEL’S LEGAL AND political dramas converge today, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in court for his corruption trial as the president launched talks to help form a government.

Netanyahu, ordered to appear for opening arguments in his trial, sat in the Jerusalem District wearing a black mask as the prosecution accused him of misusing his office to advance his political interests.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing in the case where he has been charged with accepting improper gifts and seeking to trade regulatory favours with media moguls in exchange for positive coverage.

Lead prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari told judges that Netanyahu was involved in “a serious case of government corruption.”

He “made illegitimate use of the great governmental power entrusted to him,” in his dealings with media executives “in order to advance his personal affairs – including when he faced his desire to be re-elected,” she said.

As Ben-Ari was laying out the criminal case against Israel’s longest-serving leader, across the city President Reuven Rivlin began meetings that could determine Netanyahu’s political fate.

Israel’s 23 March election was its fourth inconclusive vote in less than two years, prolonging the worst political crisis in the nation’s history.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party finished first, winning 30 seats in the 120-member parliament, but his ability to form a stable governing coalition is precarious, a reality that has plagued him for several years.

Rivlin today began two days of consultations with party officials to determine who has a plausible path towards a 61-seat majority, in a parliament bitterly divided between those who back Netanyahu and those committed to ending his 12-year tenure.

Ahead of his first meeting, with Netanyahu’s envoys from Likud, Rivlin said he would seek to nominate a candidate who has “the best chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the new Knesset”.

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Customarily, Rivlin gives the leader with most recommendations from individual lawmakers a 28-day window to form a government,

That can be extended by 14 days at the president’s discretion.

 © – AFP, 2021. Comments are closed as the case is before the courts.

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