The corruption trial against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to be put on hold until after the March 23rd elections. Currently, at the evidentiary stage, the trial, which expects Netanyahu to be in court three times a week, is likely to be delayed according to several legal experts.
On Monday morning Netanyahu made his mandatory appearance at the Jerusalem District Court for a hearing at which he formally pleaded not guilty to the three charges against him, and his lawyers then sought a postponement of further sessions.
Speaking after appearing in court to formally deny the charges, Netanyahu warned that it would be a “crude intervention in the elections” if the evidentiary phase of the trial were to go ahead before the national vote, which is scheduled to take place in just six weeks’ time.
“I think everyone knows the cases against me are fabricated. But we learned today that they’re not even completed fabrications. Lots of things are missing, even from the prosecution’s point of view,” Netanyahu said at a press conference in Jerusalem alongside the Greek prime minister. “It doesn’t seem to me that they’ll hurry [in court] to the evidentiary stage before the elections. In any case, that would be seen — even if that’s not the intention — as a crude intervention in the elections,” he said.
“If that happens, I’m telling you we’ll win [the elections] big time. But since we’re going to win [the elections] anyway, we don’t need to win that way. We don’t need it. [The timing of the next phase of the trial] needs to be handled with common sense, and I expect that will be the case,” the prime minister added.
However, when the hearing almost reached an end on Monday, Rivka Friedman-Feldman, the presiding judge, stated that the trial was lagging far behind schedule. “This case should have started months ago. It didn’t start because of the coronavirus; we wanted to be responsible and not to gather too many people,” she told the defense lawyers. “In essence, you’re asking to defer the evidentiary stage by six months. We should have heard evidence long ago, Why are we seeking to press on, you ask? Because it’s been a year since the indictment was filed.”
As it stands, Netanyahu faces charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust and is the first Israeli premier to be indicted while in office.