Israeli prime minister’s corruption trial resumes amid mounting protests


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s graft trial resumed on Sunday, July 19, after a two-month break, as protests over his alleged corruption and handling of the coronavirus crisis escalates.

Netanyahu’s trial started in May after he was being accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust – charges he said are plot by his political opponents to remove him from office.

Netanyahu, the first serving Israeli prime minister did not attend trial as his presence was not required at the session in Jerusalem District Court. A spokesman for the prosecution said it would be a technical discussion.

The 70-year old leader was indicted in November in cases involving gifts from millionaire friends and for allegedly seeking regulatory favours for media tycoons in return for favourable coverage.

After clinching a coalition deal three months ago with centrist Benny Gantz, his main rival in three inconclusive elections since April 2019, Netanyahu took centre stage in ordering restrictions that flattened Israel’s first wave of coronavirus infections.

But after a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, high unemployment and reimposed coronavirus curbs in recent weeks, Israelis have taken to the streets in almost daily demonstrations against him, with public anger compounded by the corruption allegations.

On Saturday, police used water cannons to disperse demonstrators around Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence.

In Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial hub, thousands gathered to demand better state aid to businesses hurt in the health crisis.

Bribery charges carry a sentence of up to 10 years in jail and/or a fine. Fraud and breach of trust carry a prison sentence of up to three years. (Source: The Straits Times)