Breaking News | Netanyahu drops request for immunity from corruption charges

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said he is withdrawing his bid for parliamentary immunity from prosecution on corruption charges, paving the way for a trial to begin.

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

“I informed the Knesset speaker that I am withdrawing my immunity request,” Netanyahu said.

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’s Likud party was planning to boycott the Knesset session.

“In this fateful hour for the people of Israel, when I am in the United States 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.

The prime minister’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.

Akiva Eldar, an Israeli columnist at Al-Monitor, said the Israeli leader had no choice but to withdraw his immunity request.

“Netanyahu hates to be the loser. He wanted the immunity and he wasn’t able to get it. He stood no chance. He doesn’t have a majority in the Knesset to get the immunity,” Eldar said.

Netanyahu and Trump were scheduled to meet on Tuesday at the White House for the announcement of the Trump administration’s long-anticipated plan for the Middle East.

Netanyahu was indicted in November on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust over allegations that he granted state favours worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israeli media barons in return for gifts and favourable coverage.

He denies any wrongdoing, saying he is the victim of a witch-hunt by the media and left to remove a popular right-wing leader.

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