Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been formally indicted in court on corruption charges after he withdrew his request for parliamentary immunity from prosecution.
Netanyahu was in Washington for meetings with US President Donald Trump ahead of the release of Trump’s long-delayed US-Israeli “peace” plan for the Middle East when Israel’s attorney-general filed the charges in a Jerusalem court on Tuesday.
Earlier, Netanyahu said he was withdrawing his bid for parliamentary immunity from prosecution on corruption charges, paving the way for a trial to begin.
זה יום היסטורי למדינת ישראל ואחד הימים החשובים בחיי. כמו תמיד, איני נותן לשום דבר אחר להפריע לי מלעבוד למענכם – למען ביטחון ישראל, למען עתיד ישראל. pic.twitter.com/medB5xCTIr
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) January 28, 2020
Israel’s longest-serving prime minister issued a statement on Facebook on Tuesday, saying the immunity proceedings in parliament would have been a “circus” and he did not want to take part in a “dirty game”.
“I informed the Knesset speaker that I am withdrawing my immunity request,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, had been set to convene to discuss the formation of a committee to debate the prime minister’s request for immunity from prosecution on Tuesday.
The Knesset was widely expected to reject the request, which would have dealt Netanyahu a blow ahead of a parliamentary election scheduled for March 2 – the third national vote in less than a year. Netanyahu’s Likud party was planning to boycott the session.
— Ramzy Baroud (@RamzyBaroud) March 23, 2018
His retraction paves the way for legal proceedings against him to go forward. A trial could take months or years and the 70-year-old leader is under no legal obligation to resign.
Netanyahu was indicted in November on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust over allegations that he granted state favors worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israeli media barons in return for gifts and favorable coverage.
He denies any wrongdoing, saying he is the victim of a witch hunt by the media and the political left aiming to remove a popular right-wing leader.
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.
(Al Jazeera, PC, Social Media)