Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to appear before the Jerusalem District Court to attend the first session of his trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The development marks the first time a sitting Israeli premier has been put on trial.
Netanyahu arrived some thirty minutes before the hearing shortly after convening the first cabinet meeting of his newly established national unity government, after the court ruled against his bid to send legal representatives in his stead.
Before taking the defendant’s seat, Netanyahu professed his innocence during televised comments from an outer hallway. “Citizens of Israel, what is standing trial today is the attempt to foil the will of the people, the attempt to topple me and the right wing,” he insisted, amid claims of a deep state conspiracy that has relentlessly sought to shift the power balance within the Jewish State.
“Elements in the police and the Attorney General’s office have allied with left-wing media – I refer to as the ‘Just Not Bibi Gang’ – in order to stitch up unfounded and hallucinatory cases against me,” he said forcefully, stating that “The objective is to topple a strong right-wing prime minister and thus distance the national camp from leading the state for many years.”
Netanyahu pledged to persevere with the help of his followers. “With your help and with the help of God, I will continue fighting. I will not let them topple us. While the media continues to deal with nonsense, in these futile, baseless cases, I will continue leading the State of Israel and take care of the issues which are really important for you,” vowed Israel’s longest-serving Premier.
The Jerusalem District Court retired after the 50-minute hearing, with the next trial date set for 19 July.