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Netanyahu Trial Postponed as Courts Placed on Emergency Footing

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s trial on corruption charges in three separate cases has been postponed until May 24 at the earliest. The development is the result of a coronavirus-related decision by Justice Minister Amir Ohana – a close Netanyahu ally – to halt all court activities that do not qualify as an “extraordinary emergency.” The trial was set to begin Tuesday. A petition to block the delay has already been filed with the High Court of Justice, whose proceedings are exempt from the order. The move comes at a sensitive time given political gridlock in light of three snap elections in less than a year. Over the past few days, Netanyahu has repeatedly called on his main rival, Blue and White chief Benny Gantz, to put aside any differences and join a unity government to more adequately address and respond to the health crisis. Top Blue and White lawmakers are reportedly divided on the matter, although preliminary talks between Netanyahu and Gantz have taken place. Nevertheless, much will depend on Sunday’s meetings between President Reuven Rivlin and party leaders, who will give their recommendations on whom to task with forming the next coalition. According to Israeli media reports, all 15 lawmakers from the Joint List – a collection of primarily Arab parties – will recommend Gantz, potentially pushing his center-left bloc over a 61-seat majority in the 120-member parliament. This, in turn, would likely prompt Rivlin to hand Gantz the initial 28-day mandate to negotiate the formation of, in all probability, a minority government supported from the outside by the Joint List.