Prior to entering the courtroom where he listened to the prosecution reading out the charges against him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired left, right, and centre accusing the police and the judiciary of plotting against him in a bid to topple his government.
"Citizens of Israel, what stands for trial today is the attempt to thwart the will of the people [and the desire] to overthrow me and the right-wing camp [I represent]", he said in a 15-minute statement.
"The left has been trying [to topple me] for over a decade at the ballot box. In recent years they have found a new patent. The police and the prosecutor's office joined forces with left-wing newspapers to build unfair and despicable cases [against me] and bring down a strong right-wing prime minister".
Bibi, Go Home
But not everyone agreed with his statements, with opponents taking to Twitter to vent their anger at a PM who is accused of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in a series of graft probes that include buying positive coverage and receiving illegal gifts.
"Don't fight for us. Just get out of our lives and free our country. We will be fine without you...", wrote one Twitter user.
מה שעומד היום למשפט זה הניסיון לסכל את רצון העם: להפיל אותנו, את המחנה הלאומי, באמצעות תיקים תפורים.— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) May 24, 2020
בעזרתכם ובעזרת השם אמשיך להילחם. מדינת ישראל היא שליחות חיי ואמשיך ביתר שאת לשמור עליה ועליכם. להחזיר את מקומות העבודה שאיבדנו בקורונה ולשמור על הביטחון שלכם.
תודה על התמיכה!🇮🇱 pic.twitter.com/q33Y3Y25vT
Another tweep commented: "Bibi, relax. We have just started", referring to the long-awaited trial that kicked off in Jerusalem on Sunday and posting a photoshopped image of Netanyahu wearing prison clothes.
"No words can express the scorn [I feel] today at the delusional speech that you gave at the district court with a team of your cheerleaders behind you. The court is part and parcel of the state's institutions and you hurt them all. You are the one who stand on trial. The cases are not talking about the right. These are your own cases. All you want to do is to split the people and lead them into a civil war. Democracy is stronger than you".
אין לי מילים.— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) May 24, 2020
אני פשוט אוהב אתכם ❤️ pic.twitter.com/NJkvr17pvA
Many in Israel feel equally strong about Netanyahu and the charges levelled against him. A poll from last year, released months before the decision to indict the prime minister was made public, revealed that 55 percent of Israelis were certain the PM was corrupt. Forty-five percent said they thought he wasn't.
Supporters Slam the System
Yet, Netanyahu is far from being the only player not trusted by the general public. Another poll has shown that Israelis had little trust in the very system that put Netanyahu on trial. According to the survey's findings, 47 percent of respondents said they didn't believe the Attorney General who indicted Netanyahu in November of last year. Similarly, alarming numbers were observed regarding the Israeli police and the country's mass media, with 44 and 22 percent respectively.
It is for that reason that hundreds of Israelis gathered in front of Jerusalem's District Court on Sunday to express support for the PM. Waving Israeli flags, they called on the judiciary to take their hands off the PM, a man who "has done a lot" for the country.
Apart from introducing a number of reforms that transformed Israel's economy, including the privatisation of companies and easing of regulations for foreign investors, Netanyahu is also appreciated for his strong stance on terrorism, reducing attacks on the Jewish state to a minimum.
Domestically, he is appreciated for developing the periphery and connecting it to the centre of Israel.
"On my way to a rally [in support of Netanyahu], a resident of [the southern city of] Sderot told me that the current [Likud] government has invested much in his city, turning it into a developed and blossoming area. Then I thought of all the left-wingers who believe the stories of our mass media that constantly tells them that Netanyahu's government couldn't care less about the periphery", wrote one tweep referring to Netanyahu's achievements.
בדרך להפגנה הלכתי עם תושב משדרות.— נתנאל גלסנר (@netanelgla) May 24, 2020
אומר לי אתה לא מאמין מה הממשלה הזאת עשתה בשדרות, היא הפכה אותנו לעיר שוקקת, יפיפייה, שדרות יותר אטרקטיבית מרמת השרון.
ואז חשבתי על מצביעי השמאל שערוצי התעמולה מספרים לו שתושבי הפריפריה מצביעים נתניהו למרות שהוא לא סופר אותם, עדר עיוור
On the international arena, he is known for his negotiating skills which have paved the way for bolstering ties with allies and improved relations with countries that don't have any diplomatic relations with Israel.
Numerous police probes and an indictment have failed to break that image, with more than a third of Israelis casting their votes in favour of the prime minister in the last three general elections.
Even when the date for Netanyahu's trial was announced, 45 percent of Israelis still preferred him as prime minister, a trend that has only gone up with the outbreak of the coronavirus in Israel, the spread of which has been contained due to the PM's decisive measures.
"The PM's successful policies and his leadership will be engraved in Israel's history. The coverage of his trial and his persecution will also be remembered as a dreadful disgrace".
ההצלחות האדירות והמנהיגות של רה״מ נתניהו יחרטו בדפי ההיסטוריה - הסיקור התקשורתי הפוליטי נגדו והרדיפה יזכרו לדראון עולם https://t.co/SlfWKd4pwk— Topaz Luk 🇮🇱 (@TopazLuk) May 24, 2020
"I hope you know how much we all love you", wrote one supporter responding to a post by the PM who thanked all those who took to the streets on Sunday to protest the "unjust" conduct of the judiciary. "We hug you, send you strength and appreciate you. We will never let anyone hurt you, hurt us or our democracy", he tweeted.
מקווה שאתה יודע כמה אנחנו אוהבים אותך!!!— אביחי חדד (@avihaihaddad) May 24, 2020
ולעולם לא ניתן שיפגעו בך, שיפגעו בנו, בדמוקרטיה!
"You [left-wing mass media] said he'd never show up for his hearing. He did.
You said that there will never be a unity government. Gantz crawled in.
You said there will be defectors from Likud. Many parliamentarians came to express their support for Netanyahu.
You said it was the end of his era and he received 1,340,000 votes.
We love you, our prime minister".
אמרתם לא יתייצב לדיון - התייצב .— Emilisakov (@Emilisakov2) May 24, 2020
אמרתם לא תהי אחדות - גנץ זחל פנימה .
אמרתם שהיו עריקים מהליכוד - חצי סיעה הגיעה לדיון לתמוך .
אמרתם תם עידן נתניהו - בקלפי קיבל 1,340,000 קולות .
אוהבים אותך ראש הממשלה 💚