Updated Feb 8, 2021 - World

Netanyahu pleads not guilty to corruption charges

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) talks to his lawyers ahead of a hearing in his corruption trial at the Jerusalem district court
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) talks to his lawyers ahead of a hearing in his corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court on Monday. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded not guilty in a Jerusalem courtroom to bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges on Monday.

Why it matters: Netanyahu's trial resumes 43 days before Israel is due to hold its fourth election in two years. 

Details: Netanyahu stood with his back to the cameras, making every effort not to be photographed inside the courtroom after he and his lawyers entered several minutes before the hearing started.

  • Netanyahu exited the courtroom after 30 minutes, leaving his lawyer to represent him for the rest of the hearing.

For the record: Netanyahu hopes to use his trial as a means for mobilizing his base ahead of the elections. 

  • On Sunday, Netanyahu released a Trump-like video in which he spoke about a "witch hunt" and "rigged cases." 
  • In the video, he called on his supporters not to demonstrate in front of the court because of COVID-19 restrictions but said he "appreciates" them.

Between the lines: Netanyahu, his lawyers and political allies had taken every step possible to delay the resumption of the trial, and they were quite successful.

Of note: Yariv Levin, speaker of the Knesset legislature, issued an unusual statement on Sunday calling on the judges to postpone the hearing of witnesses and evidence until after the March 23 election.

  • Levin claimed that if the trial is not postponed, it will be perceived as a political intervention by the judges against Netanyahu.

What's next: The main decision the judges need to take on Monday is the schedule for the hearing of evidence and witnesses.

  • The judges have said in the past they want to have three hearings a week and that Netanyahu would have to attend most of them.
  • If this stage starts in the next few weeks and is not postponed until after the election, it is sure to dominate the agenda of the campaign. 

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details of Netanyahu's court appearance.

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