Benjamin Netanyahu has withdrawn his immunity application to parliament. Now he could become the first incumbent Prime Minister of Israel to go to trial.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is threatened with a trial for fraud, embezzlement and bribery. A corresponding indictment against the politician has been submitted to the district court in Jerusalem. The Ministry of Justice announced this. Earlier, the Prime Minister had withdrawn his application for immunity from prosecution.
On his Facebook page, Netanyahu wrote that he had informed the President of Parliament, Juli Edelstein. The 70-year-old accused his political opponents of a “dirty game” and stressed that he would refute all accusations of corruption. Now that the indictment has been received, Netanyahu is expected to face a corruption trial for fraud and embezzlement as well as bribery in the near future. It was initially unclear whether the trial sessions could begin before the election on March 2. Despite the indictment, Netanyahu is seeking re-election as Prime Minister.
The accusations against Netanyahu involve suspicions of influencing the media, allegedly crooked deals with companies, and luxury gifts from business friends in return for political favours. If he is convicted of bribery, Netanyahu faces up to ten years in prison. In the event of a conviction for fraud and embezzlement, the maximum sentence would be three years in jail.
Netanyahu on “historic mission” in the USA
Originally, a sitting on the immunity request of the Heads of Government was due to start in Parliament on Tuesday. A vote was planned on the establishment of a Knesset committee to decide on the immunity of the 70-year-old. However, the prospects for privilege were considered to be very poor. By revoking his application, Netanyahu anticipated this decision this morning.
“At this fateful hour for the Israeli people, while I am on a historic mission to the United States to establish Israel’s permanent borders and ensure Israel’s security for generations to come, another circus performance is to begin in the Knesset to have my immunity revoked,” wrote Netanyahu. US President Donald Trump later wanted to present the outlines of his long-awaited Middle East plan in a joint press conference with Israel’s head of government.
Netanyahu’s challenger Benny Gantz of the Central Alliance Blue-White said after his decision: “No one can govern a country and at the same time be faced with severe criminal proceedings in three cases of bribery, fraud, and embezzlement. Gantz said, “Netanyahu is going to trial. We must move forward.” Israel’s citizens now have the choice between a head of government working for them or ahead of government working for themselves.
In Israel, a transitional cabinet with Netanyahu at the helm has been in power for about a year now. The parliament has only limited capacity to act. After two parliamentary elections, no new government could be formed in 2019 due to a stalemate.
It is the first time in Israel’s history that an incumbent prime minister is facing charges. Netanyahu speaks of an attempted coup d’état and sharply criticizes Israel’s judiciary.