By Joan Mas Autonell
Jerusalem, Dec 22 (EFE).- After years of instability and political deadlock, Israel’s designated prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will return to power as head of an ultra-right-wing coalition government while on trial for corruption charges.
The conservative Likud party leader, who informed president Isaac Herzog of the new government on Wednesday, was indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust after over two years of police investigations in 2019, before his trial that is expected to last for years began in May 2020.
The trial had almost no effect on his campaign for the November 1 elections, but it would be an issue for his coalition.
According to Israeli law, Netanyahu will be forced to quit if found guilty but he can remain in office throughout legal proceedings.
The longest-serving prime minister in the history of Israel after 15 years in office (1996-1999 and 2009-2021) did not resign when he was impeached three years ago.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
“If you are a prime minister and tried for corruption, this puts you in a conflict of interest, because you can use the state to get a favorable ruling in your case,” Adam Shinar, a law professor at the Reichman University of Israel, tells Efe.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu is accused of receiving lavish gifts from billionaires in exchange for political favors.
Case 2000 relates to accusations Netanyahu struck a deal with a daily newspaper for favorable coverage in exchange for detracting its competition.
Case 4000 focused on allegations that during his time as both head of government and communications minister, Netanyahu negotiated with telecommunications company Bezeq, owned by Shaul Elovitch, for favorable coverage for both him and his wife.
Netanyahu denies all charges and claims the corruption cases against him are a conspiracy by prosecutors, media, and police officials.
Critics believe Netanyahu could use his power to end the trial, but analysts think he would not be interested in such a move because it would cause a stir and be seen as an attack on the country’s democracy.
“I don’t think Netanyahu wants to cancel the trial clearly because the process will still take a long time, but he could do other things to undermine it,” Shinar says.
The trial is also proceeding with slowness since it has many people involved and a large volume of data to analyze, Amir Fuchs, a legal expert at the Israel Democracy Institute, says.
“There are hundreds of witnesses and the defense is allowed to ask questions for weeks. Sometimes the same person testifies for two or three weeks at a time,” he explains.
The judges also address all three cases in which Netanyahu is indicted at the same time, so it will take them longer to issue a final ruling, Fuchs adds.
According to Shinar, it may take “three or four years until everything is finalized,” and if Netanyahu is indicted, “he will probably appeal to the Supreme Court,” which will take even more time.
While the situation could change, everything currently seems to indicate that Netanyahu will be in power in the short and medium term without fears of being unseated. EFE