Israel’s Netanyahu, Saying He’s ‘Standing Tall,’ Goes on Trial on Corruption Charges

May 24, 2020 Updated: May 24, 2020

JERUSALEM—Benjamin Netanyahu professed his innocence at the start of his corruption trial on May 24, saying he was being framed but “standing tall” in the first criminal prosecution of a serving Israeli prime minister.

Flanked by a group of cabinet ministers from his right-wing Likud party, Netanyahu addressed television cameras in the courthouse hallway before appearing in front of a three-judge panel.

“These investigations were tainted and stitched-up from the first moment,” Netanyahu said about charges of bribery, breach of trust, and fraud at the center of three graft cases against him.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement before entering a courtroom at the district court of Jerusalem on May 24, 2020, during the first day of his corruption trial. (Yonathan Sindel/AFP via Getty Images)

He dubbed prosecutors and police the “Just Not Bibi Gang”, a reference, using his own nickname, to what he has called a witch-hunt, abetted by the “left-wing media” and political opponents to end his record tenure as prime minister.

“I am appearing here today, as your prime minister, standing tall and with head high,” Netanyahu told reporters, vowing to beat the charges and continue to lead Israel in his current fifth term.

Netanyahu, 70, was required to appear for the session in Jerusalem District Court, a week after his new unity government was sworn in. Its inauguration ended more than a year of political deadlock in the wake of three inconclusive elections.

He was indicted in November in cases involving gifts from millionaire friends and for allegedly seeking regulatory favors for media tycoons in return for favorable coverage.

By Maayan Lubell