In the most serious case, Netanyahu has accused a telecommunications company controlled by a millionaire friend of promoting regular benefits worth 1 billion shekels (more than ৮ 263 million), prosecutors say. In return, Netanyahu received favorable coverage from a news site that even influenced the choice of word of mouth and story, prosecutors allege.
Sunday’s activities ended within an hour, as they were mostly processed.
“I have read the complaint and I understand its content,” Netanyahu told the court.
He did not enter any plea, but he repeatedly expressed his innocence.
Before taking his place in the courtroom, he made a statement standing behind him with senior members of his Likud party.
He described his allegations as “sewing-up” – Israel’s liberals and media elites tried to bring him and his right-wing bloc to collapse.
The media was just watching him sit on the court bench and make the film, Netanyahu said, adding that he would ask the court to broadcast the entire trial live.
“Straight back and proud to be here as your Prime Minister,” he told them looking at the house. “When the public is confronted with the whole truth, the cases fall apart.”
Participants in the small district courtroom wore masks even after speaking. As soon as the three judges entered, Netanyahu stood. He sat down after a cameraman was taken out of the house in accordance with an earlier agreement on court proceedings.
Discussing the schedule, defense attorney Misha Fetman said she was new to the team and needed time to read all the material, which prosecutor Liat Ben-Eri Schwecky said would take about three months.
Fatman pleaded with all defendants – Netanyahu and two businessmen and a businessman’s wife – to refrain from attending every court session, especially procedural hearings, and the state did not oppose the move.
The prosecution may be a few months away from opening though the process was adjourned until July 19.
Under Israeli law, Netanyahu does not have to resign over the allegations. Instead, he will have to resign only if he is found guilty and the sentence will be upheld through the appeal process.
In a tweet sent shortly before the court session, Benny Gantz, an ally of Netanyahu’s main coalition, wrote that Netanyahu was innocent until found guilty and expressed confidence that the legal system would provide the Prime Minister with a fair trial.
Israel’s new alternative prime minister, Gantz, had previously campaigned on the platform not to sit together as prime minister once accused in three elections.
“I would like to reiterate that my colleagues and I fully believe in our legal system and law enforcement agencies. Now, perhaps more than ever before, we must move forward for unity and compromise for the state of Israel and as a society.” All its citizens, “Gantz tweeted on Sunday.
CNN’s Oren Lieberman and Elliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.