Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trial for three corruption cases will begin on March 17, two weeks after Israel's March 2 election.
The trial would thus begin the day after the new Knesset is sworn in, which occurs two weeks after an election. The timing is likely to complicate Netanyahu's potential coalition negotiations after two failed attempts within a year to form a government.
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The prime minister's defense may request that his arraignment be postponed and demand additional evidence, which would delay trial proceedings until the request is accepted or denied. The defense team is expected to request that Netnayahu be exempt from appearing in court, arguing that requiring him to participate would intervene with his work, should he remain prime minister or serve in another political position after the election.
Also charged in the cases are Arnon Mozes, publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper; Shaul Elovitch, former owner of the Bezeq telecommunications company; and Elovitch's wife, Iris. The trial is to be held in the Jerusalem District Court, with Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman heading the panel, which will also include Judges Moshe Bar-Am and Oded Shaham. Friedman-Feldman and Shaham are considered tough on corruption.
Netanyahu reportedly believes he would fare better in a Jerusalem court, where more judges are religious and/or right-wing, than in Tel Aviv. According to one political figure, when he recently asked Netanyahu why it was so important to him to be tried in Jerusalem, the prime minister said that “in Jerusalem the judges go to synagogue, in Tel Aviv they go to the philharmonic.”
In January, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit indicted Netanyahu for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in the three cases. The so-called Case 1000 involves lavish gifts that the prime minister allegedly received. Case 2000 involves contacts between Netanyahu and Mozes, in which the prime minister is alleged to have offered legislation favorable to Yedioth in exchange for favorable news coverage for the prime minister. Case 4000 involves allegations of beneficial regulatory treatment for the Bezeq telecommunications firm in exchange for favorable news coverage for Netanyahu on Bezeq’s Walla news website through alleged contacts with the Elovitches.
Netanyahu filed a request for immunity in the three criminal cases on January 1, later withdrawing it just before a committee to discuss the issue, which already had a majority against immunity, was set to convene.