Editorial |

Netanyahu, Don’t Drag Your Trial Out

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his lawyers as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his lawyers as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020Credit: Ronan Zvulun/ AP
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

It’s intolerable to have the prime minister run the country while standing trial on charges of severe corruption in the fulfillment of his duties. Therefore, determining the truth as quickly as possible is supremely important.

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The problem is that Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to drag out the legal process through every possible tactic. At the opening session, his attorneys asked that the hearing of the evidence begin only in another year.

His frequently changing lawyers are another tactic he uses to cause delays in the legal proceedings against him. And there have been other tricks to this end, like failing to pay his lawyers, thereby causing them to refuse to receive the evidentiary material the prosecution sent them.

The fact that the defendant also serves as prime minister should not make the court schedule the sessions at lengthy intervals and conduct the trial at a leisurely pace. A defendant, regardless of whether he’s an ordinary citizen or the prime minister, is not supposed to dictate the speed at which the trial proceeds.

Past precedents show that it’s possible to conduct a trial of this scope quickly and efficiently. The amount of evidence in Netanyahu’s trial is about one fourth of the evidence in the Holyland case, which had 13 defendants (including former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert); the number of witnesses in that case initially totaled about 380, compared to around 330 in Netanyahu’s trial.

In the Holyland case, sessions took place four days a week, and the trial was concluded in a year and nine months. Netanyahu’s trial can and must finish sooner.

The unique constitutional arrangements created for the unity government, by authorizing Benny Gantz to serve as deputy prime minister, actually enable Netanyahu to free up time for his trial by delegating some of the workload to his deputy. Therefore, there’s no real need to take his prime ministerial schedule into account. And in any case, Netanyahu won’t be attending all the sessions.

Given the trial’s public implications, it must not be dragged out for years. The court must prepare to hold the sessions at a rapid clip, three to four days a week, and conclude it within a year to 18 months at the most. The prosecution can handle this pace, and so can the prime minister’s lawyers. The entire country is waiting for the verdict.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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