TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he was being framed in an “attempted political coup” at the start of his corruption trial as he became the first Israeli leader to face criminal indictment while in office.
“These investigations were tainted and stitched-up from the first moment,” Netanyahu told television cameras before entering the courtroom to face a three-judge panel.
“Elements in the police and State Attorney’s Office banded together with left-wing journalists… to fabricate baseless cases against me,” he said of the the fraud, breach of trust and bribery charges facing him.
“The goal is to oust a strong right-wing prime minister and to banish the right-wing camp from leadership of the country for many years.”
“I’m not a poodle… and therefore they need to remove me by any means,” he said.
“I am appearing here today, as your prime minister, standing tall and with head high,” Netanyahu added.
Netanyahu charged the police of making trumped up claims against him.
“These investigations were corrupted and fabricated from the start,” he said.
He said prosecutors and police and the rest of the “Just Not Bibi Gang” were determined to see his ruling Likud party lose the elections and that is why police pushed for an indictment before the April 2019 elections.
“They did everything so I wouldn’t stand here today as prime minister,” he said, according to a translation of his remarks by the Times of Israel.
He called for the trial to be broadcast live and intimated the Attorney General Avichai was “hiding something” and that were the public to “know the whole truth,” the corruption cases would crumble.
Netanyahu also claimed witnesses were pressured into testifying against him.
“This is the rule of law? This is democracy?” he said.
“They invented a special clause for me that doesn’t exist in any law book in Israel or the world. How absurd,” Netanyahu said of Case 2000, in which he is suspected of striking a deal with media mogul Arnon (Noni) Mozes whereby the premier would weaken the Sheldon Adelson-backed daily Israel Hayom in return for more favorable coverage in Mozes’ Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.
Netanyahu noted the bribery case, the most serious of the three facing the premier, is the first time a politician would be indicted for allegedly exchanging favors for positive news coverage.
“The people recognize…: This is an attempted political coup against the will of the people,” he said.