Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust is set to begin on March 17 at the district court in Jerusalem, the court announced today.

Why it matters: Netanyahu's trial will begin two weeks after the March 2 elections, likely in the middle of efforts to form a new government.

The big picture: The announcement of the trial date is expected to affect the remaining period of the election campaign. The Blue and White Party led by Benny Gantz will likely use it in order to convince voters Netanyahu will not be able to serve as prime minister, as he will be totally consumed by his trial. 

  • Netanyahu said in an interview with Israel's Army Radio Tuesday that he doesn't think the trial will prevent him from performing his duties as prime minister, stressing that he has the ability to defend himself in court and run the country simultaneously. 

According to several polls from recent days, neither Netanyahu nor Gantz will win enough seats in the next Knesset to form a right-wing or a center-left coalition.

  • The fact that the trial will begin during new coalition negotiations is expected to remove the possibility of a unity government led by Netanyahu.
  • This will make the formation of a new government even more difficult, raising the possibility of further political deadlock and an unprecedented fourth round of elections.

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