Israel Prime Minister goes on trial

JERUSALEM (AP) – 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 today. 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 from wealthy friends and offering favours to media moguls in exchange for favourable 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 Tashir of Israel’s Hebrew University. Netanyahu claimed “an unelected movement is trying to remove him from power just because he is a representative of the right”.

Demonstrators, wearing protective face masks amid concerns over the country’s coronavirus outbreak, hang a banner showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during ‘Black Flag’ protest against Netanyahu and government corruption at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel. PHOTO: AP