Israeli prosecutors accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of treating favours as “currency” on Monday at the opening of a corruption trial which, along with an inconclusive election, has clouded his prospects of remaining in office.
Wearing a black mask and dark suit, Netanyahu was seated in the Jerusalem District Court following an order from judges to appear in court to face charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Netanyahu, who denies all wrongdoing in the three cases against him, conferred quietly with lawyers as his supporters and critics held raucous demonstrations outside. He left before the first witness was called to testify.
Israel’s longest-serving prime minister misused “the great governmental power entrusted to him, among other things, to demand and derive improper benefits from owners of key media in Israel in order to advance his personal affairs – including when he faced his desire to be re-elected”, prosecutor Liat Ben Ari said during opening arguments.
He “made illegitimate use of the great governmental power entrusted to him”, Ben Ari added.
“The relationship between Netanyahu and the defendants became currency, something that could be traded,” she said. “The currency could distort a public servant’s judgement.”
Netanyahu’s fate could come down to Naftali Bennett, a right-wing former ally with whom he has strained ties and Mansour Abbas, leader of a small party the United Arab List, who also has yet to commit to either the pro- or anti-Netanyahu blocs.Netanyahu passed Israel’s founding father David Ben Gurion in 2019 as the country’s longest-serving prime minister, having held office continuously since 2009 and for several years in the 1990s. (Aljazeera)