Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial will begin a fortnight after Israelis go to the polls for the third time in a year.
The Israeli prime minister’s trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust will begin on 17 March, shortly after the results of the 2 March election become known. It is the first time a sitting Israeli premier has been indicted.
Analysts suggested that the proximity of Netanyahu’s trial to the election may weigh on voters’ minds, and may change the political calculations of other parties.
Opposition leader Benny Gantz said it would be a distraction for the prime minister when he needed to focus on the state. “Netanyahu will be occupied only with himself,” he said. “He will not be able to care for the people of Israel.”
Netanyahu responded: “You know what will be a sad day? If a Benny Gantz government dependent on [Arab parliamentarian] Ahmad Tibi is formed… We won’t let that happen.”
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and has refused to resign. Last month he tried to pass a law granting him immunity, but it lacked the required political support. Opponents have asked the attorney-general whether Israeli law allows a criminal defendant to form a government.
This week, senior ministers from Netanyahu’s Likud said if the party could form a right-wing government after the election, Netanyahu would propose a so-called “French law” to prevent him from being prosecuted as long as he is prime minister.
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