Netanyahu to Be Tried by Panel of Three Judges

View of the District Court in Yerushalayim. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Three judges will adjudicate the cases against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the Yerushalayim District Court announced Wednesday. The lead justice will be Rivka Friedman-Feldman, who will be assisted by justices Moshe Bar-Am and Oded Shaham. Friedman-Feldman was also the lead justice in the case against former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in which he was convicted.

According to Israeli law, a sitting prime minister who is indicted is entitled to be tried by three judges, and the trio will hear prosecution and defense in the three cases open against Netanyahu. Netanyahu will go on trial on three indictments, including Case 1000, in which Netanyahu is accused of accepting extravagant gifts from millionaire Arnon Milchin, mostly cigars and champagne; Case 2000, in which the prime minister allegedly leaned on the publishers of Yisrael Hayom to limit distribution of their free newspaper in order to benefit from better coverage in rival newspaper Yediot Acharonot; and Case 4000, also known as the Bezeq-Walla News Case, an influence-peddling probe that alleges that Netanyahu offered his good services to Israeli billionaire Shaul Elovich in return for positive coverage on the Walla news site. The indictments against Netanyahu in Cases 1000 and 2000 focus on breach of trust issues, while Case 4000 includes a bribery charge as well.

Among the witnesses who will be called to testify in the trial are MK Yair Lapid, former government minister Tzippy Livni, Minister Gilad Erdan, former Netanyahu aide David Shimron, and Netanyahu’s uncle, Natan Milikovsky, among others. Accompanying the letter from Mandelblit was an update of the indictments, including the list of witnesses. Altogether 333 witnesses will be called on to testify, news reports said.

The path to the trial was paved two weeks ago, when Netanyahu decided not to invoke his parliamentary immunity. No date has been set for the beginning of the trial, although it will certainly be after the March 2 election. Pundits have said that given the complicated charges, the huge number of documents involved, and the large pool of witnesses, it’s likely that the trials and the appeal process will go on for years – perhaps as long as a decade, according to legal experts who spoke to Yediot Acharonot.

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