Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday arrived at a Jerusalem court to face corruption charges in three cases, becoming the first sitting prime minister in Israel’s history to be tried before a three-judge panel.
Netanyahu was indicted for breach of trust in Case 1000, the illegal gifts affair, for breach of public trust in Case 2000, the Yediot Ahronot-Yisrael Hayom affair, and for bribery and breach of trust in Case 4000, the Bezeq-Walla! affair.
The first case, Case 1000, involves expensive gifts that Netanyahu allegedly received from wealthy supporters, particularly from Israeli-born movie producer Arnon Milchan, possibly in return for favors.
Case 2000 alleges bribery between Netanyahu and Yedioth Aharonoth owner, Arnon Mozes. Netanyahu supposedly offered to use his power to hinder the influence of Yedioth’s main rival, Israel Hayom, through legislation that would minimize Israel Hayom’s distribution, in return for Yedioth’s reduction of negative coverage of Netanyahu.
Case 4000 alleges that Shaul Elovitch, former owner of Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq and of the Walla! news portal, pressured his CEO, Ilan Yeshua, to arrange positive coverage of Netanyahu on Walla! in exchange for the prime minister advancing regulations that would benefit Elovitch. The regulatory benefits were worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Bezeq, of which Elovitch was a major shareholder at the time.
Just the beginning
Sunday’s opening session is mostly technical and includes the reading of the charges.
The trial is expected to last for years, and the next court appearance is scheduled in another six months.
Netanyahu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and his supporters have called the allegations a witch hunt by a “hostile media” against him and his family, and have accused the judicial system of attempting to unseat a prime minister in an undemocratic process. (See: “Will Netanyahu’s Trial Tear Israel Apart?”)
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