Netanyahu wants pre-trial corruption hearing aired live so public can 'hear his side'

Netanyahu wants pre-trial corruption hearing aired live so public can 'hear his side'
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the attorney general to allow for his pre-trail corruption hearing to be aired live.
4 min read
26 September, 2019
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants the public to hear 'his side' [AFP/Getty]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday he wants his pre-trial hearing on corruption charges to be broadcast live.

The premier called on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to allow for a live stream in a video posted on social media, Reuters reported, in which Netanyahu said he has "nothing to hide".

"After three years of a deluge of leaks, misleading and partial, it's time the public hears everything - my side too, completely and fully, without mediators, censors and distorters," Netanyahu said.

"I therefore ask that the attorney general open the hearing to a live broadcast."

Mandelblit announced his intention to indict Netanyahu on fraud, bribery and breach of trust charges pending a hearing expected for early October.

Many expect him to seek immunity if re-elected.

After fighting his second election in just five months, and with a potential corruption indictment looming, the 69-year-old was tasked on Wednesday by Israel's president with forming a new government following last week's deadlocked polls.

President Reuven Rivlin gave Netanyahu the go-ahead after meeting with him and his main challenger, ex-army chief Benny Gantz, whose alliance came out one seat ahead of the premier's Likud party in September 17 elections.

Serious indictment

With the possibility of a unity government between Netanyahu and Gantz's parties looking increasingly unlikely, Netanyhu must now cobble together a coalition without a clear path to a majority.

When accepting the mandate, Netanyahu again called on his main opponent Benny Gantz to join him in a unity government, but his challenger dismissed the premier's negotiating tactics so far as unserious.

Gantz says he should be prime minister under a unity government since his centrist Blue and White party finished as the largest, while also insisting he will not serve in a government with a premier facing a serious indictment.

Blue and White has sought to convince members of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud to replace him as leader and form a unity government together, but there is no sign for now of that happening.

The situation has led Netanyahu's critics to accuse him of effectively holding the country hostage, arguing that a unity coalition would be possible if he would step down.

Comment: Palestinian hopes don't lie in Israel's election, but in America 2020

But Netanyahu points out he has the support of more smaller parties in parliament than Gantz and has vowed not to abandon them in coalition talks.

He has given no indication he would willingly give up the post he has held for more than 13 years in all, a tenure that has made him Israel's longest-serving prime minister.

'Witch hunt'

In what is considered the most serious of the cases facing Netanyahu, the prime minister is accused of advocating regulatory benefits allegedly granted to telecommunications firm Bezeq in exchange for positive news coverage for himself from a media company owned by the then Bezeq CEO.

Alongside the Bezeg case, Netanyahu also allegedly sought a secret deal with the publisher of Israel's top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonotto ensure positive coverage in return for pushing forward a law that would have limited the circulation of a rival paper.

The third case involves suspicions the premier and his family received luxury gifts such as cigars and champagne from wealthy individuals, including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, in exchange for financial or personal favours.

Netanyahu's wife was sentenced in June to pay a fine of roughly $15,000 for misusing state funds. A Jerusalem magistrate court accepted the plea bargain Sara Netanyahu signed with prosecutors to settle the allegations she misused some $100,000 in state money on lavish meals.

The prime minister has called the allegations against him a "witch hunt".

If Netanyahu manages to form a government he could face the prospect of becoming the first sitting Israeli premier to be indicted.

Even if he is charged, Netanyahu, would not legally be forced to stand down until he had been convicted and had exhausted all avenues for appeal.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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