What happened at Monday’s hearing? – Netanyahu trial
What happened at Monday’s hearing?
Dozens of Netanyahu supporters and protesters demanding his removal
from office gathered outside the Jerusalem District Court as the
prime minister arrived for the start of the trial’s evidentiary stage.
Mr. Netanyahu sat with his lawyers as lead prosecutor Liat Ben Ari delivered
her opening statement, describing what she called a “substantial and serious
case involving government corruption”. She alleged the prime minister made
“improper use of the major government power placed in him to demand and
obtain improper benefits from the owners of major Israeli media outlets to
advance his personal interests”. “The relationship between Netanyahu and the
defendants became currency, something that could be traded,” she told the
three-judge panel. “This currency could distort a public servant’s judgment.”
Afterward, Mr. Netanyahu was allowed to leave the courtroom and Mr. Yeshua took the stand.
The former Walla CEO’s testimony is seen as key to Case 4,000, the most serious
against the prime minister because it involves the bribery charge.
He told the court that in late 2012 he began to receive requests from Mr. Elovitch
“to make negative articles about the prime minister and his wife disappear and
post articles that benefit them”. There were also “requests to post articles against
various people who were against the prime minister”, he said, including Naftali Bennett,
a former protégé of Mr. Netanyahu who served in his cabinet from 2013 to 2020.
Mr. Yeshua testified that there were times when he was instructed to take down
a story immediately “because this week [Mr. Netanyahu] has to sign something for me”.
“How much can you lie?” Mr. Elovitch’s wife, Iris, shouted as Mr. Yeshua spoke.
Mr. and Mrs. Elovitch have been charged with bribery and obstruction of justice
in connection with Case 4,000. They have denied wrongdoing.
Mr. Netanyahu has insisted he received nothing from Mr. Elovitch and that Walla’s
coverage of him was negative. He has said experts supported the regulatory
decisions he made, which prosecutors allege were of substantial financial value to Mr. Elovitch.
Several hours after Monday’s hearing ended, Mr. Netanyahu denounced as
“hypocrisy” the prosecution’s claim that he abused his powers.
“The entire proceeding against me was an abuse of the destructive power
the prosecution holds,” he told a news conference.
“This is how you try to topple a strong prime minister from the right-wing,”
he added. “This is what a coup attempt looks like.”
How can the PM serve and stand trial?
He is presumed innocent unless proven otherwise, and there is currently
no legal barrier to him staying in office as prime minister.
And even if convicted, Mr. Netanyahu would not be required to step down until
the appeals process is exhausted – something that could take years.
A former prime minister, Ehud Olmert, stepped down as his party’s leader
when he was under investigation for corruption in 2008 but technically
remained in office until elections the following year polls which brought
Benjamin Netanyahu to power. Mr. Olmert was eventually convicted of
bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice and breach of trust in connection with
several cases. He served 16 months of a 27-month prison sentence.