Netanyahu had asked Jerusalem District Court to be excused, deeming his presence a formality, saying he was already aware of the allegations against him and arguing that bringing his bodyguards would be a waste of public funds and a strain on the coronavirus pandemic rules restricting gatherings.
The court dismissed the request and said the accused appearing for the reading of the indictment is the rule, and there are no reasons for granting Netanyahu an exemption.
“This is the case in every criminal trial, and so too in the current criminal procedure. We have not found that there is any reason for the applicant to justify an exception to this rule,” the three-judge panel wrote.
The Jewish state’s premier was indicted on counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery in November, in three separate cases.
He has called the trial a politically motivated "witch hunt" and denied any wrongdoing in the scandals that involved accepting lavish gifts such as cigars, champagne, and jewelry from billionaires, allegedly in exchange for favors.
In two other cases, the 70-year-old is accused of attempting to collude with Israeli media outlets for favorable coverage. In the most severe case, he is alleged to have offered incentives worth close to US$250 million in exchange for positive stories.