March 30, 2020

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Corruption trial to Open 2 Weeks After Elections

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his residence in Jerusalem. Netanyahu calls the indictment allegations against him a "witch hunt." (Gali Tibbon / AFP via Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will open March 17 in Jerusalem, two weeks after Israel holds its national elections.

There are no jury trials in Israel; a three-judge panel of the Jerusalem District Court will hear the case. The chairwoman, Rivka Friedman-Feldman, was a member of the panel in 2014 that sentenced Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, to eight months in prison for bribery.

Netanyahu was charged in November in three corruption cases, marking the first time that a sitting Israeli prime minister was indicted. (Olmert had stepped down prior to his indictment.) Netanyahu has denied the charges and called the investigations against him a “witch hunt.”

Israel will hold its elections, its third in less than a year, on March 2 amid coalition negotiations as Netanyahu fights to hold on to political power. His defense team is expected to request that Netanyahu be exempt from appearing in court, arguing that requiring him to participate would interfere with his work as prime minister or as a lawmaker, according to Haaretz.

The most recent poll, by Israel’s Channel 13, shows the Blue and White coalition led by Benny Gantz with 36 seats in the new Knesset, followed by Netanyahu’s Likud party with 33 seats.