Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appearing in the Jerusalem District Court in February where he pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appearing in the Jerusalem District Court in February where he pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption
Photo: AFP
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appearing in the Jerusalem District Court in February where he pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption

In election aftermath, Netanyahu legal and political fates converge

While the evidentiary phase of his trial begins at the Jerusalem District Court, members of Netanyahu's Likud party are meeting with President Reuven Rivlin to recommend he be tasked with forming the next government after winning the greatest number of Knesset seats on March 23

Ynet, AFP |
Updated: 04.05.21 , 07:36
Israel's legal and political dramas converge Monday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu due in court for the beginning of the evidentiary phase of his corruption trial at the same time the president launches talks to help form a government following the March 23 elections.
  • Follow Ynetnews on Facebook and Twitter


  • Judges have ordered Netanyahu appear at the Jerusalem District Court for the prosecution's opening arguments in the case where he is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust -- having allegedly accepting improper gifts, and seeking to trade regulatory favors with media moguls in exchange for positive coverage -allegations he denies.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appearing in the Jerusalem District Court in February where he pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appearing in the Jerusalem District Court in February where he pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appearing in the Jerusalem District Court in February where he pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption
    (Photo: AFP)
    While lead prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari will be laying out the criminal case against Israel's longest-serving leader, across the city President Reuven Rivlin will hold discussions that could determine Netanyahu's political fate.
    Israel's election was its fourth inconclusive vote in less than two years, prolonging the worst political crisis in the nation's history.
    Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party finished first, winning 30 seats in the 120-member parliament, but his ability to form a stable governing coalition is precarious, a reality that has plagued him for several years.
    Rivlin on Monday begins two days of consultations with party officials to determine who has a plausible path towards a 61-seat majority, in a parliament bitterly divided between those who back Netanyahu and those committed to ending his 12-year tenure.
    Customarily, Rivlin gives a 28-day window to form a government to the leader with most recommendations from individual lawmakers.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    הגשת תוצאות הבחירות הרשמיות לנשיא המדינה ראובן ריבלין
    הגשת תוצאות הבחירות הרשמיות לנשיא המדינה ראובן ריבלין
    President Reuven Rivlin speaking after he was presented with the final results of the March 23 elections
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
    That can be extended 14 days at the president's discretion.
    Netanyahu is expected to get support from his 30 Likud loyalists, 16 lawmakers representing Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, and six votes from the far-right Religious Zionism alliance.
    That makes a likely total of 52, nine short of the absolute majority needed.
    Because the ideologically divided anti-Netanyahu camp has no agreed leader and Netanyahu may receive the most recommendations. But in comments that infuriated Likud, Rivlin last week implied that he would not necessarily be guided by mathematics alone.
    He said he would give the mandate to the lawmaker who has a chance to form a government "that will heal the divisions between us and rebuild Israeli society." and that "out-of-the-ordinary coalitions" may be required to break the political gridlock.
    Given past public acrimony between Rivlin and Netanyahu, Likud interpreted those comments as a sign that the president was tacitly aligned with the anti-Netanyahu camp. Rivlin -- a Likud member when he was in parliament -- was accused by Netanyahu's party of overstepping his largely ceremonial mandate.
    Within the anti-Netanyahu bloc, the centrist Yesh Atid party, led by former television host Yair Lapid, won the most seats with 17.
    An anti-Netanyahu alliance would require a tightrope deal among Lapid, Likud defector Gideon Saar, Netanyahu's estranged protégé Naftali Bennett -- a hardline religious nationalist -- and a group of centrist and left-wing parties.
    Lapid and Bennett met on Saturday to discuss joining forces and how to avoid another election cycle that they say would yield a similar stalemate. The Yesh Atid leader told Bennett he would step aside and allow the Yamina leader to head a coalition but demanded in exchange that Bennett announce publicly that he would not back Netanyahu, a statement he has thus far refused to make.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    Yamina leader Naftali Bennet and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid in the Knesset in 2014
    Yamina leader Naftali Bennet and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid in the Knesset in 2014
    Yamina leader Naftali Bennet and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid in the Knesset in 2014
    (Photo: EPA)
    In an unprecedented twist for Israeli coalition politics, it appears impossible for either camp to form a government without support from the conservative Islamic Raam Party, headed by Mansour Abbas, who controls four seats.
    Abbas has said he is open to hearing from all sides, but the far-right Religious Zionism party has ruled out sitting in a government with Raam, complicating Netanyahu's coalition hopes.
    It is also far from certain that the anti-Netanyahu bloc can coalesce, with some of the parties still refraining from naming their candidate and raising the prospect of a fifth election in less than three years.
    Rivlin must select a leader by Wednesday charged with trying to form a government.
    If they fail to do so, Rivlin could then move on to the next name on his list.
    Anti-Netanyahu protesters, who dub him the "Crime Minister", surrounded the court ahead of his last appearance in February, and are expected to do so again on Monday while his supporters also said they would be there to demonstrate against the proceedings.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    ההפגנה מחוץ לבית המשפט
    ההפגנה מחוץ לבית המשפט
    Anti Netanyahu protesters demonstrate outside the Jerusalem District Court where the prime minister is on trail for corruption, in February
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
    Judges have said Netanyahu can leave the courtroom after the opening arguments, when the witness testimony begins.
    No quick resolution is expected and a ruling is still several months off.
    According to law, Netanyahu would not be compelled to resign as prime minister unless he is convicted with all appeals exhausted and that could take several years.

    First published: 07:28 , 04.05.21
    Talkbacks for this article 0