Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his first court appearance since May on Monday to enter a plea of not guilty to an indictment alleging corruption and misconduct.
The case began with a police investigation in 2016, and an indictment was issued in 2019. Netanyahu faces a wide array of corruption charges arising from separate investigations. The charges have been consolidated for one trial. He is accused of accepting bribes in exchange for various government favors, as well as engaging a quid pro quo with a media company: positive coverage in exchange for legislation to curb the company’s main rival. He is also charged with receiving favors from a telecom mogul in exchange for agreeing not to obstruct his business interests.
The trial has faced repeated delays as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing was brief and largely administrative, but its significance was not lost among Israelis.
In Israel, prime ministers are removed from office upon conviction. Ehud Olmert, Netanyahu’s immediate predecessor, was sentenced to six years in prison following a bribery conviction. Moshe Katsav, Israel’s former president, was sentenced to seven years in prison for rape and other sexual offenses.
Israel, unlike most common law jurisdictions, does not have juries. Since Netanyahu faces more than 10 years in prison, he will be tried by a three-judge panel.