Netanyahu’s Corruption Trial Begins With Verbal Broadside To Legal System; Benny Gantz Vows to Protect Rule of Law; Yair Lapid Rails Against PM, Likud

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial opened with a bang. Nine senior members of Likud’s leadership escorted Netanyahu to the courthouse. They included Finance Minister Israel Katz, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, Transportation Minister Miri Regev, Minister without Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi, Education Minister Yoav Gallant, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen, and Minister for Liaison between the Government and the Knesset David Amsalem. Outside the courtroom, Netanyahu blasted Israel’s law enforcement agencies for “fabricating” the charges against him. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Netanyahu addressed the media when he arrived, characterizing the indictment against him as an attempted political coup orchestrated by figures in the justice system, law enforcement, the media and the political left. Reported by The Times of Israel.Read more… Netanyahu said that “Elements in the police and State Attorney’s Office banded together with left-wing journalists… to fabricate baseless cases against me.” He also claimed that the goal was to “oust a strong right-wing prime minister and to banish the right-wing camp from leadership of the country for many years.” Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, categorically rejected Netanyahu’s claims that his indictment was an attempted “coup.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Reported by Fox News. Read more… Netanyahu is the first serving Israeli prime minster to stand trial. He answered “yes” to the court’s inquiry as to whether he had read the charges against him. The prime minster will not have to return to the courtroom until July 19, when the court begins to take evidence. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, Netanyahu revealed that he had rejected a plea bargain, saying that “for the first time, Israel’s citizens heard the truth. What I said outside the courtroom was the truth. It’s time to tell the truth.” He also claimed that he wanted his trial to be televised because “I have nothing to hide, I want it all to be revealed.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Opposition leader Yair Lapid castigated the lawmakers who joined Netanyahu, calling it a “national disgrace” and likening it to the “true coup attempt”—a reference to Netanyahu’s earlier comparison of his prosecution to an attempted coup. However, the Knesset’s new speaker, Yariv Levin, said “The day of the opening of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial will be remembered as one of the low points of the Israeli legal system.” Reported by The Times of Israel.Read more…

Several days prior to Netanyahu’s court appearance, David Ansalem, a Likud minister, attacked Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, saying that there was “no dispute among the Israeli people” that Mandelblit was “allegedly a criminal.” He was referring to accusations that Mandelblit had helped the military in 2010 cover up smear campaign. Known as the Harpaz affair, Mandelblit was not charged despite an alleged police recommendation to the contrary. Likud members and Netanyahu supporters have been assailing Israel’s legal system as the prime minister’s trial drew near. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Israel’s current defense minister (and deputy prime minister) Benny Gantz stated that Netanyahu is entitled to a presumption of innocence and is assured a fair trial. “Just like every citizen, the prime minister too has the presumption of innocence, and I am sure that the justice system will give him a fair trial,” Gantz tweeted. Gantz also said that “I again emphasize that my colleagues and I have full faith in the justice system and law enforcement. At this time, perhaps more than ever, as a state and a society, we must seek unity and reconciliation, for the sake of the country and all of its citizens.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Opposition leader Yair Lapid derided the speech made by Netanyahu prior to entering the courtroom, calling it a “horror show.” Lapid accused Netanyahu of telling people they “can’t trust police, the prosecution or the court.”  Building on his theme, Lapid said, “What happens to an Israeli citizen who hears him and thinks he’s right? Are we supposed to close the country and throw away the key?” He added, “I have been saying for more than 18 months that someone who sits on the defendant’s bench cannot also be the prime minister. Today we got a demonstration why that principle is correct. It was a horror show by a frightened man who is telling Israel’s citizens that they cannot trust anything here, with followers standing behind him and saying amen.” Reported by The Times of Israel.Read more… Lapid also accused Netanyahu of trying to start a civil war and carry out a coup. Speaking to his Yesh Atid-Telem faction at the Knesset, Lapid said, “Israel changed yesterday. It won’t be the same. A serving prime minister was put on trial. His trial didn’t start with a presentation of the evidence, it started with wild incitement against the rule of law, against the courts… He knows it will end in violence but he doesn’t care.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Defense Minister Benny Gantz appeared to mildly rebuke Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party, saying that his party, Blue and White, would protect the rule of law and ensure that Israel retains “a strong and independent judiciary.” Speaking to his party’s Knesset members, Gantz told them, “Much has been said this week about the legal system … Just as the State of Israel requires a functioning government, it also requires a strong and independent judiciary. Protecting the rule of law is not a personal matter, it’s a national interest.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that Israeli law does not bar Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government while under indictment. The Court also, however, sharply criticized the government, saying “The reality in which a criminal suspect forms a government and leads it reflects a social crisis and moral failure of society and of Israel’s political system.” Several petitions to the Court had challenged Netanyahu’s ability to form a government while under indictment. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…