Likud lawmakers on Saturday hit out at prosecutors, media and political opponents of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the start of his corruption trial, with one of the premier’s allies saying a decision to convict him would be the “greatest injustice in Israel’s history,” and another saying the entire Israeli right is on trial.
Netanyahu is set to appear at the Jerusalem District Court Sunday for the beginning of his trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, making him the first sitting prime minister to go on trial in Israel’s history. He denies wrongdoing.
A rally in support of Netanyahu was scheduled to take place Sunday outside the court, with Likud ministers Amir Ohana and Miri Regev declaring they would accompany the premier to his trial.
Other Likud lawmakers were also expected to accompany Netanyahu.
A separate protest against the premier was also set to be held near the court on the city’s Saladin Street, with the Haaretz daily reporting that police were to boost their presence in the area.
“Likud voters don’t believe the premise created by prosecutors. We believe a great injustice was done to the right-wing camp. The right-wing camp is who is standing trial tomorrow,” Ohana said in an interview with Channel 12.
In a separate interview with the network, Likud MK Miki Zohar railed against the media and unspecified left whom he suggested were responsible for Netanyahu’s legal woes.
“You did everything so there will be a picture tomorrow of the prime minister at court because you didn’t know how to beat him at the ballot box,” Zohar said.
He also said if Netanyahu is ultimately convicted, it would be “the greatest injustice in Israel’s history, the greatest injustice in Israeli democracy ever.”
“The public at home will say one thing: if the prime minister is not acquitted, we will lose our faith, we will lose our faith in the system,” Zohar said.
Likud Minister Yoav Gallant closely echoed Zohar, saying the press was “celebrating” to see Netanyahu on trial.
“The strong desire to see the photo of the prime minister on the defendants’ bench overtakes everything,” he wrote on Twitter.
Gallant also lashed out at Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who indicted Netanyahu.
“While Netanyahu is being given a field trial in the media and justice is being obstructed, prosecutors and the attorney general are refusing to reveal to the public the recordings of Mandelblit. What do they have to hide?” he said.
Gallant was referring to recordings from the so-called Harpaz Affair, a 2010 scandal in which Mandelblit as the top military prosecutor was briefly suspected of having helped IDF brass cover up a smear campaign. The case against him was dropped.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid accused the Likud lawmakers of inciting against the judges and Mandelblit.
“One after another, Likud ministers over the last day have gone on air for one purpose: To threaten the judges and incite with violent remarks against law enforcement. This is the only true coup attempt taking place here,” Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid party, wrote on Twitter.
He added: “It’s your obligation to come out against this and clarify that you won’t allow Mandelblit or the court to be harmed.”
Netanyahu loyalists and supporters have increased their attacks on Mandelblit in recent weeks, with Likud Minister David Amsalem saying Thursday there was “no dispute among the Israeli people” over the fact the attorney general is “allegedly a criminal.”
Mandelblit filed a police complaint last week after receiving death threats and other harassing messages as part of what he described to police to be an organized campaign. Two suspects were later detained and questioned by the Lahav 433 serious crimes unit.
Mandelblit had already been a popular target for supporters of the prime minister over the filing of the indictments last year, which Netanyahu has decried as an “attempted coup” orchestrated by the media, the opposition, the police and the state prosecution, led by Mandelblit.
Police have previously investigated alleged harassment of Mandelblit, from members of both the right and of the left, and in 2018 his father’s grave was defaced.