Photo Credit: Amit Shabi/POOL
Netanyahu in court, May 24, 2020.

This is an update of the article below: 

The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday that the evidentiary phase of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial will begin in January 2021, and that the hearings will be held 3 times a week – on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.


Prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari said during the hearing that from the prosecution’s point of view, the proper order is to first hear the 4000 case, then the 2000 case and finally the 1000 case. “We will be flexible in this matter and try to do everything to move forward,” she said.

The original article:

People in Benjamin Netanyahu’s circle are under the impression that the prime minister is very disturbed—to say the least—about Monday morning’s memorandum hearing at his trial, wrote Mordechai Gilat, one of the PM’s most dogged critics, in Kan 11’s website. This hearing, in the Jerusalem District Court, will determine the pace and scope of the entire trial, and it is being conducted alone by the head of the three-judge panel, Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman.

Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman / David Ahronson via Wikimedia

Judge Friedman-Feldman was on the panel that sent former prime Minister Ehud Olmert to prison on charges that were similar to those Netanyahu is facing. In fact, she was on the 2012 panel that acquitted Olmert – and cast the one vote to convict; and then served on the 2015 panel that reversed the acquittal. In short, Netanyahu could not get a worse choice to lead his panel of judges.

Netanyahu has keen senses for survival: he identifies minefields, he reads battle maps and prepares for ny eventuality. He has the ability to assess his chances of coming out safely from the criminal indictments against him, and he will not make mistakes. But facing enormous challenges: a hanging judge and a skillful AG, all the while trying to mend a free-falling economy and a collapsing health system. The PM will be fighting an uphill battle with one hand tied behind his back.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit also understands the critical importance of Monday’s hearing, and has set for his prosecutor, Liat Ben-Ari, one clear goal for the hearing: to insist that the date for opening the evidentiary stage be set now, and to make it as early as possible.

According to Mandelblit, there is no reason why the evidence phase in the most fateful criminal trial of the decade should not begin in three to four months at the latest. And he wants a marathon proceeding: four evidentiary hearings a week until the verdict. He wants the trial to conclude in 18 months, give or take, which means that by the time of the verdict the same coalition government would still be in place and the people would be able to keep their focus on the trial.

The defense, on the other hand, is playing for time, the longer the better, and are expected to ask the judge to postpone as far as possible the date of for hearing the prosecution witnesses, not before the beginning of 2021. There are hundreds of crucial testimonies, thousands of documents, numerous questionable state-witness deals. And there’s a mountain of secret recordings to go through. In short – this trial should last at least four, if not five years.

In addition, Netanyahu’s attorneys are expected to argue that the Permits Committee and the Attorney General are preventing their client from receiving financial assistance for legal defense, putting him at a disadvantage – and providing yet another reason for postponing the trial’s opening.

Judge Friedman-Feldman is not likely to smile on the defense. She could point to another criminal trial that featured Ehud Olmert, the Holyland compound trial, which was conducted by a single judge, with 13 defendants and a list of 377 witnesses. It opened July 1, 2012, and concluded March 31, 2014. Olmert got six years.


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