Israeli PM back in court as parties weigh in on his fate

Israeli PM back in court as parties weigh in on his fate

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out at prosecutors in his corruption trial, accusing them of trying to oust him.

In a nationally televised statement, Netanyahu said the case against him is threatening to undermine the will of the country's voters.

This is what a coup attempt looks like, he said.

Netanyahu spoke shortly after his corruption trial resumed and with the country's president holding post-election consultations on choosing the next prime minister designate.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's corruption trial resumed Monday, with a key witness painting a picture of an image-obsessed Israeli leader forcing a prominent news site to flatter his family and smear his opponents.

The testimony came as Netanyahu's chances of securing another term in office following last month's parliamentary elections appeared to be dwindling in high-stakes political talks hosted by the country's figurehead president just a few miles (kilometers) away.

Taken together, the court testimony and political consultations pointed to an increasingly uphill struggle for Netanyahu as he fights for his political life.

In a post-election ritual, President Reuven Rivlin was consulting with the various parties elected to parliament before choosing a candidate to form a new government.

With a majority of lawmakers opposed to giving Netanyahu another term, Rivlin could give the task to a different candidate, possibly as soon as Monday night.

The consultations make it more difficult for the president to give the mandate to Netanyahu, said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute.

He said it was very clear that Netanyahu is not close" to assembling a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate cases.

Monday's proceedings, the first in two months, marked the beginning of the evidentiary phase, in which a long line of witnesses are to take the stand against the prime minister.

The session focused on the most serious case against Netanyahu in which he is accused of promoting regulations that delivered hundreds of millions of dollars of profits to the Bezeq telecom company in exchange for positive coverage on the firm's popular news site, Walla.

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