After entering the record books last year as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu will once again make history when he becomes the country’s first sitting leader to go on trial.

Surrounded by security guards, Netanyahu is set to march into Jerusalem’s district court for arraignment on a series of corruption charges on Sunday. The stunning scene will push Israel into uncharted political and legal territory, launching a process that could ultimately end the career of a leader who has been undefeatable at the ballot box for over a decade.

Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of cases. He is accused of accepting expensive gifts, such as cartons of champagne and cigars, from wealthy friends and offering favors to media moguls in exchange for favorable news coverage of him and his family.

In the most serious case, he is accused of promoting legislation that delivered hundreds of millions of dollars of profits to the owner of a major telecom company while wielding behind-the-scenes editorial influence over the firm’s popular news website.

Netanyahu has denied the charges, claiming he is the victim of an “attempted coup” by overaggressive police, biased prosecutors and a hostile media.

“It’s the classic deep state argument,” said Gayil Talshir, a political scientist at Israel’s Hebrew University. Netanyahu claims “an unelected movement is trying to remove him from power just because he is a representative of the right,” she said.

Netanyahu is not the first Israeli leader to go on trial. Both former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former President Moshe Katsav went to prison in the 2010s — Olmert on corruption charges and Katsav for rape. But they stepped down to fight the charges.

As opposition leader in 2008, Netanyahu led the calls for Olmert to leave office, famously saying a leader “up to his neck” in legal troubles had no business governing a country.

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But as the investigations have piled up, culminating with his indictment last November, Netanyahu has changed his tune. He has rejected calls to resign while repeatedly lashing out at the country’s legal system.

Among his favorite targets have been a former police chief and the current attorney general — both Netanyahu appointees — and the country’s Supreme Court. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit recently filed a complaint to police over anonymous threats sent to his mobile phone.

Netanyahu’s conspiratorial claims of victimhood have played well with his base of religious and nationalist supporters. But it is unclear whether they will hold up in court, given the lack of evidence.

In the courtroom, the legal arguments are more likely to focus on his claims that his gifts were genuine shows of affection from close friends and that he never received anything in return for the favors he is accused of offering.

The case is expected to last for several years, given the vast number of witnesses and documents that are expected to be presented.

Netanyahu has done his best to avoid this moment. During a three-year investigation, which was slowed by Netanyahu’s trips abroad and occasional security …read more

Source:: News Headlines

      

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