The trial is scheduled to begin two weeks after the country’s parliamentary election.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to attend a court hearing on March 17 for the first day of his corruption trial, the Israeli judiciary said Tuesday.
The trial is scheduled to begin two weeks after the country’s general elections - the third in a year - in which the right-wing premier is fighting for his political survival, against rival Benny Gantz from the Blue and White party.
A long-running investigation led to Netanyahu’s indictment in November in all of the three major cases against him.
The Likud’s party leader is accused of accepting US$ 264,000 worth of gifts from tycoons and of dispensing favors in return for favorable stories about him in Israel's biggest-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, and the Walla website.
The most serious of the three cases allege that Netanyahu granted regulatory favors worth about 1.8 billion shekels (about US$ 500 million) to Israel's leading telecommunications company, Bezeq Telecom Israel.
The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing and said he is the victim of a political witch hunt. He could face a sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted of bribery and a maximum three-year term for fraud and breach of trust.
Fighting to avoid conviction, Netanyahu is also fighting for his political future. Last year he failed to secure a clear win in two elections, generating a political crisis in the country.
The upcoming third election is crucial for him because If re-elected, he will not be legally required to resign unless ultimately convicted, a process that could take years.
The latest polls show Gantz with a small lead of 36 seats to 33 for Netanyahu’s Likud party, and neither of the two rivals will likely gain enough seats to secure a majority in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament). If the scenario of the two previous elections occurs again, Israel’s political turmoil could be extended with the country heading to a fourth election.
Gantz, a former army chief, has centered his campaign on the premier’s legal woes. He has discarded joining any Likud party-led government.