Monday’s appearance is Netanyahu’s second appearance in court since the corruption trial officially began in May.
Netanyahu, who wore a black mask, entered the court shortly after 9 a.m. and stood to confirm that the pleadings of innocence, which his lawyers had previously presented in writing, represent his response to the charges.
“I confirm the written response given in my name,” the prime minister told the judges.
Netanyahu, the first incumbent Israeli prime minister to appear in court as a defendant, is charged in three separate cases.
Prosecutors said Netanyahu is accused in the most serious of cases of providing regulatory benefits of more than one billion shekels (more than $ 300 million) to a telecommunications company controlled by a millionaire friend. In return, Netanyahu received favorable coverage from a news site, and even influenced the wording and choice of story, prosecutors claim.
Monday’s court session also discusses the timeline for the trial, particularly when full evidence proceedings must take place.
Israelis vote in general elections within six weeks, and in a possible sign of the prime minister’s desire to delay the opening of the trial and call witnesses, one of his most loyal allies called on judges to postpone further hearings until after the March 23 vote.
Parliament Speaker Yariv Levin told the “Israel Hayom” newspaper on Sunday that allowing the procedures to continue at this time would constitute “a major interference in the electoral process by the judiciary.”
Outside the court, dozens of anti-Netanyahu protesters gathered, many of them carrying the now-known “crime minister” banners.
His supporters were also in the numbers, one of them carried a sign reading “You will not walk alone, Netanyahu.”
On Sunday evening, the Prime Minister issued a statement urging his followers to stay home due to the epidemic.
“I know you want to give me strength in the face of the deceitful and false issues against me. But we are at a time when the boom is spreading in the world, even in Israel, so for the sake of your health I ask you – don’t come tomorrow.”
He continued that statement to reiterate his claim that his trial represented a coup attempt to remove him from office.
“Everyone understands that this is a transparent attempt to overthrow a strong prime minister from the right and thus form a left-wing government with leadership [opposition leader Yair] Lapid. “
Under Israeli law, Netanyahu is not required to resign even though he is now on trial. Only if he is found guilty, and any conviction is confirmed through the appeals process, will he be forced to relinquish his position.