Israel’s Netanyahu on trial as coalition talks ramp up

President Rivlin begins consultations on govt. formation

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial resumed on 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 Mr. Netanyahu’s chances of securing another term in office following last month’s parliamentary elections appeared to be dwindling as President Reuven Rivlin began consultations with the various parties elected to Parliament before choosing a candidate to form a new government.

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

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

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

The session focused on the most serious case against Mr. 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.

Ilan Yeshua, Walla’s former chief editor, described a system in which Bezeq’s owners repeatedly pressured him to publish favourable things about Mr. Netanyahu and smear his rivals.

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