Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu returns to court as graft trial ramps up

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in court on Monday to formally respond to corruption charges, as his trial enters an intensified phase six weeks before he faces re-election.

Netanyahu, the first Israeli premier to be indicted in office, was charged last year over allegations that he accepted improper gifts and sought to trade regulatory favor with media moguls in exchange for positive coverage.

The combative 71-year-old prime minister, who has blasted the charges as “fabricated and ludicrous,” was at the Jerusalem court conferring with his legal team shortly before the hearing was due to start.

Repeatedly suggesting the charges against him have been trumped up, Netanyahu has taken direct aim at