Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press on Feb. 28, 2019. (JTA/Gali Tibbon/AFP via Getty Images)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the press on Feb. 28, 2019. (JTA/Gali Tibbon/AFP via Getty Images)

Netanyahu will ask for immunity from prosecution on corruption charges

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he will ask the Knesset to grant him immunity from prosecution in three corruption cases against him.

The announcement, broadcast on national television on Wednesday, came hours before a midnight deadline for the request.

“I intend to ask the Knesset speaker to let me implement my right, my duty and my mission to continue serving you for the future of Israel,” Netanyahu said during a news conference in Jerusalem. “There are people, who unlike me, did commit grave crimes and they have life-long immunity. They are just on the right side of the media and the left wing.”

Netanyahu will not be able to permanently avoid a trial on the corruption charges. Immunity would last only until the Knesset that grants it is dissolved.

A Knesset House Committee must first consider the request before sending it to the full Knesset, which needs a simple majority of 61 to pass the request. But the current Knesset, which was dissolved before it could actually govern, does not have a standing House Committee, which could delay Netanyahu’s request and prevent the corruption cases from moving forward until after the March 2 national election.

Yisrael Beiteinu Party Chairman Avigdor Liberman said his lawmakers will oppose immunity, which could prevent a majority vote for the prime minister.

“One who believes there will be nothing because there is nothing will not avoid coming to trial. It’s either the kingdom of Netanyahu or the State of Israel,” Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz said in a statement after Netanyahu’s announcement.

In November, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced indictments, including bribery and breach of public trust, in three corruption cases against Netanyahu, who denies the charges.

Marcy Oster
Marcy Oster

Israel-based JTA correspondent

JTA

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