Netanyahu’s lawyer tells court PM can only testify in corruption trial in March 2025

Attorney say premier’s management of Hamas war means many months are needed to prepare him to take stand without compromising his legal rights; hearing on matter set for July 9

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jerusalem District Court, June 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jerusalem District Court, June 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense team told the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday that due to his management of the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, the premier will only be able to testify in his corruption trial starting in March of next year.

In a written submission to the court, Netanyahu’s lawyer Amit Hadad wrote that even in quiet times, “preparations to hear a defendant’s testimony on such a scale require a significant period of time.

“In the current reality, in which the defense is required to prepare the prime minister for testimony in the midst of war, the necessary period of time to do so in a way that doesn’t compromise his rights and defense is significantly longer,” he wrote.

The trial opened in May 2020 and, as things stand, is seen as unlikely to end before 2028-2029, including potential appeals.

Netanyahu has so far not taken the stand, though he has appeared in court on a handful of occasions. Proceedings have involved cross-examination of prosecution witnesses, but that phase is expected to end in the coming weeks. As the main defendant, Netanyahu should be the first to face cross-examination as the defense presents its witnesses in the three cases.

The prime minister faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in Case 1000 and Case 2000, and charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Case 4000.

In his request Wednesday, Hadad also mentioned as a reason to delay Netanyahu’s court appearance that one of the prime minister’s defense lawyers in Case 4000, Boaz Ben Zur, asked in January to be released from representing the prime minister in the case due to a family member’s health issues. Hadad, who is already representing Netanyahu in Case 1000 and Case 2000, said at the time he would take over Case 4000.

“Changing defense attorneys at such a stage of the trial requires allowing the incoming defense attorney a reasonable stay to study the material, all the more so when it comes to a large-scale case as detailed above,” Hadad wrote to the court in his request.

The other defendants in the cases — Bezeq telecom company owner Shaul Elovitch, his wife Iris and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes — informed the court that they agreed with the Netanyahu defense’s request, the Haaretz daily reported. They would all be required to face prosecution lawyers in court after Netanyahu.

A hearing on the matter has been set for July 9, according to the report. On July 21, the court begins its summer recess, which will end at the beginning of September.

Left to right: Netanyahu trial Judges Moshe Bar-Am, Rebecca Friedman-Feldman and Oded Shaham. (Justice Ministry)

Netanyahu’s trial was suspended in October along with all other non-urgent cases due to Hamas’s shock October 7 incursion, when some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 251 hostages.

In January, judges set three sessions a week for the restarted trial. However, there have been no hearings in recent weeks.

Case 4000, also known as the Bezeq-Walla case and the most serious the prime minister faces, focuses on allegations that Netanyahu authorized regulatory decisions that financially benefited Bezeq telecommunications giant shareholder Elovitch by hundreds of millions of shekels. In return, Netanyahu allegedly received favorable media coverage from the Walla news site, also owned by Elovitch.

Case 2000 concerns allegations Netanyahu tried to obtain positive media coverage in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper in exchange for curtailing its competitor. In Case 1000, prosecutors say Netanyahu inappropriately received expensive gifts from billionaire benefactors.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing in the cases against him and claims that the charges were fabricated in a witch hunt led by the police and state prosecution, and facilitated by a weak attorney general.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense attorney, Amit Hadad, arrives at a court hearing in his ongoing corruption trial at the Jerusalem District Court, July 19, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Meanwhile, earlier this week, the state commission investigating alleged massive corruption surrounding the purchase of naval vessels sent a warning letter to Netanyahu. Netanyahu, the commission charged, made decisions that endangered national security and harmed Israel’s foreign relations.

A criminal investigation into the affair has not named Netanyahu as a suspect but has ensnared several of his associates.

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