Moments before an arraignment on multiple corruption charges, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his innocence, saying he had been framed as part of an attempt to topple the country’s right-wing camp.
“Citizens of Israel, what is going on trial today is an attempt to thwart the will of the nation. The attempt to topple me, and the right-wing camp,” said Netanyahu, who made his address while surrounded by members of his Likud Party.
“For more than a decade,” he continued, “the left has failed to accomplish this at the ballot box. So in the last few years, they found a new trick.”
Elements in law enforcement and the state prosecution, he said, had joined forces with the country’s left-wing media, which he called “the anyone-but-Bibi gang,” to “stitch together” baseless cases against him.
Netanyahu accused the Attorney General of “gross interference” in the country’s national elections twice in the same year, by announcing their intent to indict just ahead of the April 2019 elections, and then announcing the formal indictment ahead of the March 2020 elections. The State Prosecution had done everything they could, he said, “to ensure that I stood here today not as a prime minister, but as an ex-prime minister. As a defeated, grieving politician.”
However, he said, “Citizens of Israel, you are far smarter than this gang thinks you are, that we are. You gave the Likud, under my leadership, the highest number of votes any party has ever received in the history of the country.”
Therefore, he said, “I stand here today as your prime minister with my back straight and with my head held high,” adding that it was his wish that the trial be conducted in a completely transparent manner, televised to the nation and with no censorship. Meanwhile, the court has stated that it will not broadcast the trial.
Supporters and opponents of the prime minister demonstrated outside of the courthouse, with chants of “Bibi, king of Israel” being heard. Opponents of the prime minister similarly demonstrated outside the prime minister’s residence.
Transportation Minister Miri Regev, who also arrived to support the prime minister, was quoted by Ynet as saying, “The people had their say at the ballot box. I expect the judges not to fall into the trap set up by the media. I believe in the prime minister. I really hope the justices will do justice.”