Ben-Dror Yemini
Ben-Dror Yemini
Photo: Ynet
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits with one of his attorneys at the beginning of his trial on Monday

Netanyahu's trial in the court of public opinion

Opinion: The three judges who will decide the prime minister's fate have been the target of attempts by the defendant to brand them as scheming leftists while skewed media reporting has already judged him to be guilty as charged

Ben-Dror Yemini |
Published: 04.05.21 , 16:17
The trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resumed on Monday with the start of the evidentiary phase of the proceedings, despite claims by some that this day would never come.
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  • There is no cause for celebration when a prime minister is on trial and facing criminal charges. But the fact that there has been no "destruction of democracy or the rule of law" is cause for some optimism.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    בנימין נתניהו
    בנימין נתניהו
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits with one of his attorneys at the beginning of his trial on Monday
    (Photo: Oren Ben Hakoon)
    As proceedings resumed in the Jerusalem District Court, there was no majority in the Knesset for Netanyahu's camp to implement a possible scheme to scrap the trial.
    The nation is truly divided: 50% of Israelis say they have little or no confidence in the legal system while demonstrations calling from the prime minister's ouster have never gone on for such a long time.
    Meanwhile, the media bias against Netanyahu has never been so skewed. This is reflected in the rush to judgement by many even before the trial began and the concern that the hatred exhibited for the prime minister could seep through into the proceedings. After all, judges are made of flesh and blood.
    The malfeasance already exposed on the part of the police who investigated the prime minister and on the part of the prosecutors raises doubts about any ulterior motives that may have interfered in the purity of the process.
    The endless leaks from police about the investigation to a press corps that stood ready to serve their interests only added to the distrust.
    Public sentiment aside, I disagree with the notion that Netanyahu would be unable to receive a fair trial after being so judged in the media.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    ההפגנה מחוץ לבית המשפט
    ההפגנה מחוץ לבית המשפט
    Anti-Netanyahu protesters demonstrate outside Jerusalem District Court as the prime minister's corruption trial resumed on Monday
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
    Judges, though they are mere mortals and not above criticism, have shown that they can ignore such reports during previous high-profile trials that ended with a not guilty verdict, despite claims in the press that guilt was unquestionable.
    Netanyahu's case is more complicated because the public, which has been exposed to so much information about the events leading up to the indictment, has for the most part already made up its mind.
    There has never been a trial heard by an Israeli court in which every shred of testimony or evidence was leaked and then published by Netanyahu's detractors and then immediately contradicted by more evidence and testimony leaked from the other side.
    The three-judge panel that will determine Netanyahu's fate is under immense pressure - as if they themselves were on trial and every word uttered by them would be dissected.
    An investigative report aired on local television has already revealed attempts by the prime minister's allies to brand members of the panel as Netanyahu opponents and to cast doubt on their ability to be impartial.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    הפגנת תמיכה מחוץ לבית המשפט
    הפגנת תמיכה מחוץ לבית המשפט
    Supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrate outside Jerusalem District Court where he is on trial for corruption
    (Photo: AFP)
    The defendant himself propagated the same insinuations when he said in an interview that he hoped reports that the judges were all hand-picked because of their left-wing leanings were untrue.
    "I am hoping to hear a denial of these allegations," Netanyahu said. But what allegations? Where were they made and by whom? Netanyahu simply attempted to sling mud at the judges who have nothing to deny.
    If there were a way to end the trial by offering the defendant a plea bargain or amnesty in exchange for his agreement to exit the political stage, it would solve Israel's parliamentary stalemate and prevent a fifth round of elections that is beginning to look inevitable.

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