An Israeli court has rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request to delay the beginning of his corruption trial, paving the way for it to begin next week as it was planned.
According to the presiding judge, there is no need for a delay since the first session that will take place on 17 March is a procedural reading of the charges, which means that Mr Netanyahu's response is not required.
The prime minister's lawyers had requested a 45-day delay, citing the need to spend more time reviewing evidence.
Mr Netanyahu is facing fraud, bribery and breach of trust charges following a series of scandals that focused on him allegedly accepting luxury gifts from wealthy friends and offering mutually favourable collaboration with media moguls. He denies all the charges, describing them as a media-orchestrated witch-hunt. In early January, Netanyahu requested parliamentary immunity from prosecution but later withdrew the request, saying he would not let his political rivals use the issue against him.
Corruption charges against the prime minister were at the centre of last week's parliamentary election. Israelis went to the polls for the third time in a year after the two previous elections saw the two main parties - Likud and Blue and White - fail to form a governing coalition. The March 2 elections did not bring any certainty either. Prior to the third round of elections, Netanyahu's major rival, Benny Gantz, said that in case he leads the next government, his party would push for legislation that bars prime ministers from occupying their post if indicted.