Israel’s Netanyahu withdraws bid for parliamentary immunity from corruption charges

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on January 19, 2020.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on January 19, 2020. © REUTERS - POOL
4 min

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he is withdrawing his bid for parliamentary immunity from prosecution on corruption charges.

Advertising

Israel’s longest-serving prime minister said in a statement the immunity proceedings in parliament would have been a “circus” and he did not want to take part in this “dirty game”.

Netanyahu, who denies all wrongdoing, said: “I informed the Knesset speaker that I am withdrawing my immunity request.”

The case now moves toward trial, a process which could take months or years. The right-winger, who faces a national election in March, is under no legal obligation to resign.

Speaking from Jerusalem, FRANCE 24's correspondent Irris Makler said Netanyahu's decision may have been a strategic one.

The Israeli PM knew "he didn't have the numbers in the parliament. He was going to lose the immunity request that he put there", Makler said.

"He's taken a strategic decision, that it's better for him at the moment not to have to suffer that humiliation." 

Netanyahu is now in Washington for meetings with US President Donald Trump ahead of the release of Trump’s long-delayed Israel-Palestinian peace plan, which the Palestinians have already rejected.

Israel’s attorney general Avichai Mandelblit indicted Netanyahu on corruption charges - the first of their kind against a serving Israeli prime minister - last November following a long-running investigation. The charges included bribery, breach of trust and fraud.

Netanyahu’s political opponents, including the centrist former general Benny Gantz, made his legal troubles a centrepiece of their campaigns against him in two Israeli elections last year.

He is suspected of wrongfully accepting $264,000 worth of gifts, which prosecutors said included cigars and champagne, from tycoons and of dispensing favours in alleged bids for improved coverage by Israel’s biggest-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, and the Walla website.

Netanyahu could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of bribery and a maximum three-year term for fraud and breach of trust.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning