The trial will begin one day after the country’s newly elected parliament is sworn in and in the middle of coalition negotiations, as Israel tries to break a year-long political deadlock.
A similar result in the March 2 elections may push Israel toward a fourth election later this year — the fourth since April 2019 — which could also prove indecisive, leaving Israel in the same political limbo in which it has been since Christmas Eve 2018.
But even that support has left him short of a government in two straight elections, as he tries to convince voters to focus on his accomplishments from his 14 years in office and ignore the imminent trial.
“While [Likud voters] may not cross the line and vote for another party, they very well may stay home and not vote at all,” Israel Democracy Institute President Yohanan Plesner told CNN.
In coalition negotiations following the last election, Netanyahu was unable to garner any support from the centrist or left-wing parties, who refused to stand behind a prime minister facing indictment. The announcement of the trial date, especially so soon after the election, will entrench that position.
“We saw how difficult it was after September’s election for anyone outside of Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc to agree to join his government. The fact that during the coalition negotiations Netanyahu’s trial will actually commence is sure to solidify this opposition,” said Plesner.