RNA - Rivka Friedman-Feldman, a judge at the Jerusalem al-Quds district court, on Tuesday rejected Netanyahu’s plea for a 45-day delay of the first hearing session of his trial, due to be held on March 17.
The judge ruled that Netanyahu, who has been charged with graft and fraud as well as in three corruption cases, is required to be present at the court according to schedule.
Israeli prosecutors said that the arguments presented by the embattled premier’s legal team for the postponement were irrelevant, and therefore there was no reason to delay the trial. Netanyahu’s lawyers, citing backlogs in transferring investigation materials, had claimed they needed more time to review evidence and prepare for the hearing.
In December last year, Israel’s prosecution officially submitted Netanyahu’s indictment to the Israeli parliament, laying out a sweeping case in which an estimated 333 witnesses, including wealthy friends and former aides, could be called to testify.
The Israeli prime minister has been charged with fraud, bribery and breach of trust in the three long-running corruption cases, dubbed Cases 4,000, 2,000 and 1,000.
Case 1,000 involves allegations that Netanyahu received luxury gifts from international billionaires in exchange for favors. In Case 2,000, he is accused of conspiring with the owner of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper to undermine a critical daily. And Case 4,000 involves allegations that Netanyahu offered incentives to the Israeli telecom provider Bezeq in return for positive stories in the Walla news website.
Netanyahu has rejected his indictment on corruption charges as an “attempted coup.” In early January, he asked the parliament to grant him immunity from prosecution in the three corruption cases but later dropped that request, which paved the way for legal proceedings against him to go forward.
Netanyahu’s legal troubles stood at the center of last week’s third inconclusive Israeli elections in less than a year, as well. His Likud party won the most votes in the March 2 elections but even with its allies fell three seats short of the 61 needed for a majority in the parliament.
Netanyahu’s rival, Benny Gantz, is attempting to gain legislative support for a bill in the incoming parliament that would preclude politicians indicted for a crime from being able to form or lead a government.