- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 18, 2020

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial will begin on March 17, an Israeli court said Tuesday.

Netanyahu is charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust under a number of cases in which he is alleged to have accepted lavish gifts from billionaire friends and exchanged regulatory favors for more positive media coverage.

In a brief statement, the court said Netanyahu is expected to attend the initial hearing.

Israel will hold its third national elections in less than a year on March 2.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE.



AP’s original story follows below.

Israel’s opposition leader Benny Gantz says he will work to mend ties with America’s Democratic Party if he wins national elections next month.

The former army chief of staff accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from President Donald Trump’s Republican Party.

With the country now in its third national election in under 12 months, Netanyahu has heavily emphasized his relationship with Trump in the past year of electioneering and has been accused of alienating Democrats in the process. Both Gantz and Netanyahu have called for bipartisan support for Israel in the United States.

Gantz, who leads the Blue and White party, said Monday that it was “very important that we will emphasize the importance of bipartisan relationship between Israel and the United States.”

Gantz, who recently met Trump at the White House, welcomed the president’s strong support for Israel.

“But we don’t care if the American president is a Republican or Democrat,” Gantz added. “If he is a good president for the United States,” then that person would be a “good president for the state of Israel as well.”

Gantz and his running mate Yair Lapid addressed a crowd of around 1,000 mostly English speakers at an event late Monday in Tel Aviv. Lapid said that Israel faces the task of a “rehabilitation” of ties with the Democrats and with American Jewry in general. The American Jewish community votes overwhelmingly Democrat.

Gantz is trying to unseat Netanyahu in the March 2 vote - after two elections in 2019 failed to yield a conclusive result. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving prime minister, seeks reelection while facing indictments on corruption charges. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Pre-election polls indicate that neither Gantz nor Netanyahu has a clear path to a parliamentary majority.

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