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Israel’s legal and political dramas converged Monday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in court for his corruption trial as the president launched talks on forming a government.

Netanyahu, ordered to appear in person for opening arguments, sat in the Jerusalem District Court wearing a black mask as the prosecution accused him of misusing his office to advance his political interests.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing in the case, in which he has been charged with accepting improper gifts and seeking to trade regulatory favours with media moguls in exchange for positive coverage.

Lead prosecutor Liat Ben-Ari told judges that Netanyahu was involved in “a serious case of government corruption”.

He “made illegitimate use of the great governmental power entrusted to him,” in his dealings with media executives “in order to advance his personal affairs – including when he faced his desire to be re-elected,” she said.

Before his first meeting, with Netanyahu’s envoys from Likud, Rivlin said he would seek to nominate a candidate who has “the best chance of forming a government that will have the confidence of the new Knesset”.

Customarily, Rivlin gives the leader with most recommendations from individual lawmakers a 28-day window to form a government.

That can be extended by 14 days at the president’s discretion.

The prime minister is also likely to win the backing of the 16 lawmakers representing Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties as well as six from the far-right Religious Zionism alliance.

That makes a likely total of 52 — nine short of the absolute majority needed.

Because the ideologically divided anti-Netanyahu camp has no agreed leader, Netanyahu may receive the most recommendations.

Within the anti-Netanyahu bloc, the centrist Yesh Atid party, led by former television host Yair Lapid, won the most seats with 17.

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