Netanyahu trial date set for March 17 — two weeks after election

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will go on trial on March 17, just two weeks after Israelis head to the ballot box for the third time in under a year, the Justice Ministry announced this week.

Netanyahu has been indicted on charges of fraud, breach of trust and corruption. Nevertheless, he is still leader of his Likud party, a frontrunner in the upcoming elections which will be held on March 2.

His indictment on Jan. 28, filed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, marked the first in Israel’s history that a sitting prime minister was indicted. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned before charges that ultimately resulted in his imprisonment.

According to recent polls, the outcome of the next election would be similar to the previous two elections and could result in yet another deadlock.

The Blue and White party, led by Benny Gantz, is Likud’s main rival seeking to win the most mandates and to build a coalition. Neither party has succeeded in the past two elections and, according to recent polls, neither will be a sure winner this time.

And making matters even more uncertain, Netanyahu’s trial will begin just as the political jockeying of forming a coalition after an election gets underway.

The prime minister has maintained his innocence and has said the charges amount to a witch-hunt.

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