Israel: Netanyahu corruption trial resumes amid anti-gov't anger

The Israeli prime minister is charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial has resumed as the long-serving leader faces mounting discontent over his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

The trial at the Jerusalem District Court resumed on Sunday after a two-month break. The court had ruled in May that Netanyahu, the first serving Israeli prime minister to go on trial, would not have to be present during the proceedings.

Netanyahu, 70, is charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals in which he is alleged to have received lavish gifts from billionaire friends and exchanged regulatory favours with media moguls for more agreeable coverage of himself and his family.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing, painting the accusations as a media-orchestrated witch-hunt pursued by a biased law enforcement system.

Bribery charges carry a sentence of up to 10 years in jail, while fraud and breach of trust carry a prison sentence of up to three years.

Widespread anger

The corruption trial resumes as Netanyahu faces widespread anger over his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

While the country appeared to have tamped down a first wave of infections, a hasty reopening sent infections soaring.

But Netanyahu and his emergency government – formed with the goal of dealing with the crisis – appeared to neglect the numbers and moved forward with other policy priorities and its reopening plans.

It has since paused them and even reimposed restrictions, including a weekend only lockdown set to begin later this week.

Netanyahu’s government has been criticised for its response to the new wave, which has seen daily cases rise to nearly 2,000. It has been slammed for its handling of the economic fallout of the crisis.

The anger has sparked protests over the past few weeks that have culminated in violent clashes with police.

On Saturday, police used water cannon to disperse demonstrators around Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence. In Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial hub, thousands gathered to demand better state aid to businesses hurt in the health crisis.

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