On the defendants’ bench, in Hall 317, the courtroom of the Jerusalem District Court, where former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert heard the judges convicted him on corruption charges, on Sunday, afternoon, will sit on the same bench Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who made legal history by bringing corruption charges against a sitting premier, was hand-picked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the job. Netanyahu will enter the courtroom to face charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. The hearing is expected to be brief, but the trial will probably be long, exhausting – and most of all a festival.
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This morning at 11:00, Benjamin Netanyahu will hold the first official government meeting he established just last week with Blue&white Benny Gantz. At noon, he will lock up the meeting, get into the official vehicle, and head out to the district court.
Upon his arrival, he is expected to receive support from Likud activists, and protest from Democrat-Liberal people.
At 3 p.m., Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman will open the trial. Friedman-Feldman also sat in the panel that convicted former PM Olmert in 2015. She was a relatively anonymous judge at that time. Alongside her, in the judicial panel, seat justices Moshe Bar-Am and Oded Shaham.
In case number 67104-01-20, four defendants appear, who will be sitting together in court today. Defendant # 1 is Netanyahu. In cases 1000 and 2000 he is charged with fraud and breach of trust and in case 4000 for taking bribes. Defendants Nos. 2 and 3 are former controlling shareholders of the Bezeq group and the Walla news site, Shaul Elovich and his wife Iris. They are accused, among other things, in case 4000 for bribing the prime minister, disrupting legal proceedings, and impeaching the inquiry. Defendant # 4 is Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Noni Moses, who is accused in the 2000 case of offering a bribe and securing a bribe to the prime minister.
Today’s hearing is expected to be brief: during which the judges will examine only if each defendant understands the contents of the indictment. After reading the indictment, the parties will set the dates for the hearing of preliminary allegations and the response to the indictment in the coming months.
In most criminal cases, it is customary to set the hearing on the preliminary allegations within a month or two and to allocate two or three months to respond to the indictment. At the request of Netanyahu’s defense attorneys, the investigation materials were not transferred to the defense until after the March 2020 elections.
The main part of the evidence to the hearing was transferred in October 2019, but according to the defense attorneys, the volume of material received in March is three times that of the material passed at the hearing.
The courts go on summer vacation on August 11 for three weeks, and in light of the quantities of materials, it is doubtful that the evidence hearings will begin before high holidays in September.
Assessment: The trial may take at least one to two years, not including referral to the courts.
All along, Netanyahu denied the suspicions against him, claiming it was persecution: “There will be nothing because there is nothing,” he said again and again. Today he will have the opportunity to start proving it.