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Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu appeared in court Monday to hear a third set of charges in a sprawling corruption investigation involving alleged bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. A few miles from the Jerusalem courtroom, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was consulting with Netanyahu's Likud and other political parties Monday to determine which he should ask to try and form a governing coalition after an inconclusive fourth election in two years.
The vote in the March 23 election resulted in 13 parties dividing the 120 seats of the Knesset, or parliament, and neither Netanyahu's right-wing bloc or the ideologically diverse anti-Netanyahu coalition has the 61 votes to claim a governing majority. That means Netanyahu's fate "could come down to Naftali Bennett, a right-wing former ally with whom he has strained ties, and Mansour Abbas, the leader of a small Arab Islamist party who also has yet to commit to either the pro- or anti-Netanyahu blocs," The Associated Press reports. If no leader can form a government, there will be a fifth election.
Netanyahu has refused to step down as he faces trial on criminal charges, and Israeli law doesn't require him to. Monday's hearing, involving allegations dubbed Case 4000, centered on testimony from the former chief editor of a news site, Walla, owned by Israeli telecom giant Bezeq. The editor, Ilan Yeshua, will testify that Bezeq chief executive Shaul Elovitch pressured him hard and continuously to change articles to meet the demands of Netanyahu and his family. Netanyahu, in return for the favorable coverage, backed legislation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Bezeq's owner, prosecutors allege.
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