Three-judge panel appointed to determine Netanyahu's fate

The Jerusalem District Court judges will be: Rivkah Friedman-Feldman, Moshe Bar-Am and Oded Shaham.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks as he and U.S. President Donald Trump discuss a Middle East peace plan proposal in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 28, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks as he and U.S. President Donald Trump discuss a Middle East peace plan proposal in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 28, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID)
A three-judge panel for the public corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set on Wednesday.
The Jerusalem District Court judges will be: Rivkah Friedman-Feldman, Moshe Bar-Am and Oded Shaham.
A decision on the panel had been stalled since the indictment against Netanyahu was filed on January 28. A trial date has still not been set.
Although there was initially greater potential for the trial to open before the March 2 elections, at this point the most likely scenario is a post-election opening for the trial.
Netanyahu officially became the first sitting prime minister in Israel’s history to be indicted two weeks ago, when Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit filed an indictment with the Jerusalem District Court against him for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, just hours after Netanyahu withdrew his immunity request.
Mandelblit announced his final indictment on November 21, but could not file it with the courts until the immunity request process was concluded.
The two-month delay in filing the indictment came from Netanyahu’s unusual request for immunity (which most ministers have not requested) and the fact that the Knesset has been out of session for an extended period.
Hours after announcing the indictment on November 21, Mandelblit gave a speech in which he said that it was personally sad for him to indict Netanyahu, whom he personally greatly admired in terms of talents, but that he was obligated by the law to do so.
The attorney-general ultimately indicted Netanyahu for bribery in Case 4000, the “Bezeq-Walla Affair,” for breach of public trust in Case 1000, the “Illegal Gifts Affair” and for breach of public trust in Case 2000, the “Yediot Aharonot-Israel Hayom Affair.”
In Case 4000, Netanyahu is accused of involvement in a media bribery scheme in which Walla owner Shaul Elovitch allegedly gave him positive coverage in exchange for Netanyahu making government policies favoring Elovitch’s Bezeq company to the tune of around NIS 1.8 billion.
This is the hardest case for Netanyahu, since he faces accusations by two close former aides turned state witnesses, Shlomo Filber and Nir Hefetz.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu is accused of receiving hundreds of thousands of shekels in gifts from rich tycoons, mostly from Arnon Milchan, in exchange for a variety of help with business and personal-legal initiatives. The charge itself is for acting in situations in which the prime minister had a conflict of interest, since no actual quid pro quo can be proven.
In Case 2000, Netanyahu was accused of working with Yediot and Yisrael Hayom to reduce the latter’s competition with Yediot in exchange for positive coverage for Netanyahu in Yediot. The deal never went through, but the law has crimes of attempted bribery and breach of trust which can apply even if a deal does not go through. Mandelblit was never a fan of Case 2000, but decided he needed to charge Netanyahu with something once they indicted Yediot owner Arnon “Noni” Mozes with bribery.
Meanwhile, also on Wednesday, the state prosecution requested a 45-day extension of its deadline for submitting its claims of what evidence must remain confidential. The prosecution’s request said that seeking a 45-day extension, not long after filing an indictment, for deciding which evidentiary material to claim as confidential was common practice.
A legal brief to the court noted such extensions were granted in the Holyland case against former prime minister Ehud Olmert, the case against former Bat Yam mayor Shlomo Lahiani and the case against former Ashkelon mayor Itamar Shimoni.
Further, the prosecution said that the unique complexity of this case had required extensive consultations regarding the evidence.
Ultimately, the prosecution said that very little evidence would be claimed as confidential.
Evidence is claimed as confidential when its exposure could harm national security, give away internal prosecution strategy, or implicates information that comes under one of a variety of legal privileges.