Final week I requested Uri Korb, one of many prosecutors in former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s trial, what the which means of the opening session of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial on Sunday was. In spite of everything, it’s only a technical stage of the trial. “The opening session is the primary time the defendant sees the prosecutor,” Korb identified. “It’s a sobering second, particularly for somebody who was the prime minister. All of the sudden, he comes face-to-face with the one who has been getting ready the case in opposition to him for months, and will likely be doing all the pieces to place him in jail any further.”
The second Netanyahu walked in to courtroom 317 on the Jerusalem District Courtroom, a couple of minutes earlier than three:00 P.M., and got here face-to-face for the primary time with Senior State Prosecutor Liat Ben Ari was pivotal. Ben Ari has been constructing the case in opposition to him for over three years now, and can lead the prosecution in his trial. Simply earlier than getting into the courtroom, Netanyahu made a fifteen-minute assertion within the hall. Flanked by Likud ministers, he lambasted the police and the prosecution.
Somebody had made certain to convey a wood lectern bearing the official seal of the State of Israel to the courthouse particularly for the assertion. The assertion was performed by the tv networks in its entirety, with no interruptions from journalists. The media was permitted to report on the case freely, however solely from the ground beneath the courtroom, the place they watched the proceedings on a closed-circuit tv. It was the proper picture of Netanyahu’s Israel – a confrontational and irreverent press, saying and reporting no matter it pleases whereas Netanyahu floats serenely above.
Netanyahu was in charge of the second, with all the ability of the premiership. Within the hall he was nonetheless in his Israel, the place he’s omnipotent.
On the opposite aspect of the wall, within the courtroom, was a parallel Israel, one by which Netanyahu is a defendant who was allowed to convey only one lawyer with him. A parallel Israel the place Netanyahu was compelled, in opposition to his will, right into a place the place presiding Choose Rivka Friedman-Feldman and her colleagues Moshe Bar-Am and Oded Shaham had been in cost for 50 minutes.
Whereas the photographers had been nonetheless within the courtroom, earlier than the judges’ entrance, Netanyahu remained standing, to disclaim them an image of him sitting on the defendants’ bench. As they left and Netanyahu settled down, he tried to stay ramrod straight and look straight forward at Friedman-Feldman. The CCTV cameras by which journalists might observe the proceedings had been targeted on his again. The minutes ticked on and the prime inister’s lawyer, Micha Fettman, spoke, adopted by the three different defendants’ legal professionals. Netanyahu could possibly be seen wanting sideways furtively at Ben Ari, sitting simply three meters away from him on the prosecution desk. He turned more and more and visibly uncomfortable, caught between two ladies in black robes who now management his destiny.
At one level, Ben Ari in contrast the amount of proof within the case to that of “the Holyland case by which I used to be, coincidentally, additionally concerned.” There was no coincidence there. The Holyland case was the one by which Olmert was convicted. I’ve taken down one prime minister already, Ben Ari was telling Netanyahu, I can do it once more.
Fettman and Netanyahu’s second lawyer, Amit Hadad, referred to him as “the prime minister” all through the session, emphasizing the phrases. However Friedman-Feldman made some extent of calling him “Mr. Netanyahu” and even admonished one of many legal professionals by saying “you’re obstructing Mr. Netanyahu’s view,” so he might see the complete majesty of Israeli justice.
It was an impressive second. Irrespective of how lengthy the trial takes and regardless of the verdict will likely be, these fifty minutes by which Netanyahu was simply one other defendant had been by no means to be taken as a right. He had finished all the pieces, truthful and foul, to attempt to keep away from his day in courtroom. However there he was, answering to Friedman-Feldman. It was a uncommon second, not only for Israel, a rustic the place a main minister and a president have already gone to jail. It could have been a uncommon second wherever on the earth, the place leaders are virtually by no means held accountable in courtroom for his or her alleged crimes. For 50 minutes, it wasn’t Netanyahu’s Israel.