JERUSALEM — Few world leaders have ever stood trial whereas in workplace, not to mention whereas working for re-election in the course of a pandemic.
But on Monday morning — with a common election simply weeks away, and a fraught choice about reopening the schooling system due quickly — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was pressured to shift his consideration away from issues of state and attend as an alternative the resumption of his trial on corruption charges.
The listening to was largely administrative and Mr. Netanyahu spoke solely briefly to plead his innocence.
“I affirm the response that was filed in my identify,” the prime minister mentioned, referring to a written plea that his attorneys entered a number of weeks in the past.
Mr. Netanyahu spent lower than half an hour contained in the courtroom earlier than leaving his attorneys to argue with the three judges about procedural issues. However that was the primary time that Mr. Netanyahu has spoken within the court docket itself because the trial began final Could, and solely the second time that he has attended in particular person.
And the straightforward spectacle of a sitting prime minister within the dock has sparked a debate concerning the well being of Israel’s democracy and judicial system.
For some, the truth that an Israeli prime minister may be dropped at trial in an Israeli court docket is powerful proof of judicial independence and equality earlier than the legislation. However others worry that the discourse that has surrounded the trial — which Mr. Netanyahu has himself portrayed as a plot by unelected bureaucrats to undermine the need of the folks — has undermined public belief within the judicial system.
On Monday, the chief prosecutor within the case, Liat Ben-Ari, arrived in court docket accompanied by a safety element, following threats to her security.
Mr. Netanyahu faces a number of prices. In a single case, he’s accused of granting political favors to 2 businessmen, in change for presents price roughly $200,000, together with cigars and Champagne. In different instances, he’s alleged to have sought favorable media protection from main information shops, in change for regulatory adjustments that benefited their homeowners.
If convicted, Mr. Netanyahu may face a number of years in jail, however a verdict is just not anticipated for a number of months, if not years. The trial has already been delayed a number of occasions by coronavirus restrictions, although the method might speed up within the coming weeks because the court docket begins to listen to from prosecution witnesses.
Within the brief time period, many analysts imagine the trial might not have a big influence on the end result of the election on March 23. Most voters fashioned their opinions way back, because the trial and the investigation that led to it have dragged on for years, mentioned Dahlia Scheindlin, an Israeli political analyst and pollster.
“Might the opening of the trial actually change anyone’s thoughts?” Ms. Scheindlin mentioned. “To this point I don’t actually see it.”
“None of that is new — folks have had years to issue this in,” she added.
To his critics, the straightforward proven fact that Mr. Netanyahu opted in opposition to resigning from workplace, regardless of being distracted by difficult legal proceedings, was already proof of a harmful selfishness.
Many authorities failings all through the pandemic had been “all due to the trial,” the Black Flags, an opposition motion that has led protests in opposition to Mr. Netanyahu, tweeted on Monday morning. “His private survival is extra necessary to him than the survival of the state.”
However to Mr. Netanyahu’s supporters, the trial is in itself proof of a deep conspiracy in opposition to him, and little that happens through the hearings will change their thoughts.
“As we speak marks one other stage within the tried political assassination often known as the Netanyahu instances,” wrote Osnat Mark, a lawmaker from Mr. Netanyahu’s get together. “With unbelievable timing, the prosecution seeks to expedite the listening to of prosecution witnesses close to the election as a political battering instrument. The general public didn’t purchase it on the listening to nor on the submitting of the indictments close to the election and won’t purchase it now both.”
Myra Noveck and Irit Pazner Garshowitz contributed reporting.