Netanyahu pulls request for immunity on corruption charges

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu withdrew his request for immunity from prosecution yesterday, hours before parliamentary proceedings were set to begin.

In a statement issued on his official Facebook page, Netanyahu, who was visiting Washington ahead of the launch of United States (US) President Donald Trump’s peace plan, said he “decided not to let this dirty game continue”. Israel’s Parliament, called the Knesset, was set to convene to discuss the formation of a committee to debate the Prime Minister’s request for immunity from prosecution.

Netanyahu was indicted on counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery in November 2019 in three separate cases. He has denied any wrong-doing. Netanyahu’s Likud party was planning to boycott the Knesset session. “In this fateful hour for the people of Israel, when I am in the US on a historic mission to design the permanent borders of Israel and ensure our security for decades to come, the Knesset is expected to open another exhibition in the circus of removing immunity,” Netanyahu wrote.

Netanyahu’s chief political opponent Benny Gantz, who leads the Blue and White party, said in a statement that “Netanyahu is going to trial – we must go forward”. “Nobody could run a country and simultaneously manage three serious criminal charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust,” Gantz added. Netanyahu’s retraction of his immunity request paves the way for legal proceedings against the Prime Minister to go forward with the country’s third Parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2.

The Knesset was still expected to assemble despite Netanyahu’s withdrawal of his request to form the committee, which will also address former Welfare Minister Haim Katz’s request for immunity from prosecution in his own corruption cases.

United States President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk with reporters before a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House. PHOTO: AP