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Israel names three judges for Netanyahu's corruption trial

Friedman-Feldman was one of the judges who found former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert guilty of bribery in 2015
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu frequently denied any wrongdoings and rejected what he called 'false accusations' (AFP)

Israel’s District Court of Jerusalem on Wednesday named the three judges who will hear the criminal charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Rivka Friedman-Feldman, an Israeli veteran judge, will head the three-judge panel, alongside judges Moshe Bar-Am and Oded Shaham.

Friedman-Feldman was one of the judges who found former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert guilty of bribery in 2015.

Israel has no jury system in courts, and the trial will not start before the elections on 2 March.

Israeli polls show that Netanyahu is lagging three or four seats behind his rival Benny Gantz, a former army chief who heads the Blue and White political alliance, but the third election in less than a year might not change the political status quo in the country.

On 28 January, Netanyahu was indicted in three separate cases of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, becoming the first sitting Israeli premier to be accused of corruption.

Early that day, Netanyahu dropped a request for parliamentarian immunity while he was attending US President Donald Trump’s announcement of his plan dubbed the “deal of the century”.

He frequently denies any wrongdoing and rejects what he calls “false accusations” that are “politically motivated”.

Three cases

Netanyahu was charged with breach of trust and fraud in all three corruption cases, as well as bribery in one of the investigations, according to a charge sheet released by the justice ministry in November.

In the most significant case, dubbed Case 4000, the premier is accused of making decisions benefiting Bezeq - Israel's largest telecommunications company - in exchange for positive coverage on the website Walla News, which is controlled by the company's former chairman.

In another case, Case 1000, Netanyahu is accused of receiving gifts from Israeli-born filmmaker Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer in exchange for political favours, including promoting their business interests and helping them obtain visas.

Finally, Case 2000 alleges that Netanyahu struck a deal with the owner of Yedioth Ahronoth to receive favourable coverage from the Israeli newspaper.

Netanyahu could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if he is found guilty of bribery.

He could face three years in prison for fraud and breach of trust.