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Netanyahu corruption trial resumes, as war rages on

The corruption trial of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu restarted Monday after a two month pause that followed the state of emergency declared after the October 7 Hamas attacks.

Israeli Minister of Justice Yaris Levin lifted the state of emergency effective December 1.

Netanyahu’s corruption trial first began in January 2020, making him the first sitting Israeli prime minister to appear in court as a defendant, on trial for charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery. He denies any wrongdoing.

The prime minister faces charges in three separate cases.

In Case 1000, he is charged with fraud and breach of trust in connection with allegations that he received gifts like cigars and champagne from overseas businessmen.

In Case 2000, he is also charged with fraud and breach of trust and is accused of seeking favorable coverage in one of Israel’s top newspapers in exchange for limiting the circulation of one of the paper’s main rivals.

In the most serious case, Case 4000, he is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust for allegedly advancing regulatory benefits worth the equivalent of more than $250 million at the time to his friend Shaul Elovitch, who was the controlling shareholder for the telecommunications company Bezeq.

In return, the prosecution says, Elovitch ensured positive coverage of the Prime Minister in an online news site he owned called Walla! News. Elovitch has denied the charges.

Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation David Amsalem criticized the resumption of the trial in a time of war.

“War? Kidnapped? Evacuees? Economics? No and no… What is most important now is to renew Netanyahu’s trial, and to engage the Prime Minister of Israel with the unfounded testimonies and delusional trifles,” Amsalem, who is also a minister in the Ministry of Justice, said on X.

Netanyahu has called the indictments a “stitch-up” and an effort by Israel’s liberal and media elites to topple him and his right-wing bloc. Under Israeli law, he is not required to step down from office unless he is convicted and that conviction is upheld throughout the appeals process.

Earlier this year, his government pushed through a law effectively stripping the country’s courts of the power to declare a prime minister unfit for office. Critics argue the law was passed for Netanyahu’s benefit amid the ongoing corruption trial and have challenged it before the country’s Supreme Court.

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