With bombast, protests for and against, and a media frenzy, a sitting prime minister has gone on trial for the first time in the history of Israel.
Just days after signing an agreement sealing his position as prime minister for the next year and a half, Benjamin Netanyahu went on trial for fraud, bribery, and breach of trust charges after a four-year investigation.
“For more than a decade the left has failed to do this at the ballot box,” Netanyahu said. “In recent years they have found a new trick — police and prosecutors have joined the ‘Anyone but Bibi’ gang to drum up these delusional and fabricated cases, this delusional trial. They aim to bring down a strong prime minister from the right and to keep the right away from power for many years.”
The trial started Sunday with a circus-like atmosphere both outside the courtroom and within. Months leading up to the moment, Netanyahu tried every angle he could to delay the trial or pass legislation that a sitting prime minister has immunity against charges, while his opponents tried to pass a law that someone who has been indicted cannot be prime minister.
Nevertheless, the trial opened on Sunday to a raucous atmosphere with both protestors and supporters of the prime minister (or “crime minister” as some of the signs read).
Netanyahu, will not accept a plea bargain but plans to fight the charges and remain in power — and he doesn’t have to resign unless convicted, which could be years and more elections away.
“We are not here to make deals. We are here to get the truth out,” he said.
Flanked by other members of Likud, Bibi gave a fiery speech outside the Jerusalem court.
“The people recognize… that this is an attempt at a political coup, against the will of the people,” he said. “I want to reassure you all, with your help, and with God’s help, I’ll continue to fight; I won’t let them bring us down.”
“I stand here with straight back and head held high,” he said. “I’ll continue to lead the State of Israel.”
The next hearing is set for July 19 and Bibi does not have to return to court until the evidence stage. The prosecution has more than 300 witnesses, including former associates of Netanyahu who will testify against him in exchange for lightening on their own charges.
Photo: Youtube Screenshot