Israeli PM charged with corruption after dropping immunity bid

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Gil Cohen-Magen, Pool)

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has officially been indicted by the country’s Attorney General, after he dropped a last-ditch attempt to secure immunity from prosecution in three corruption cases.

This development comes on the heels of Mr Netanyahu visit to sWashington for the launch of Donald Trump’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan, which according to leaks in the Israeli media is expected to be the most pro-Israeli American peace proposal yet.

The decision to file the indictment against the premier paves the way for a trial to continue, right before Israel is due to go to elections on 2 March.

Mr Netanyahu, who is Israel’s longest-running prime minister, was charged with fraud, breach of trust and bribery in November in three separate cases. He has denied any wrongdoing and repeatedly dismissed the legal proceedings as a “political witch hunt”.

He had originally sought immunity from the legal proceedings but changed his mind after it became clear Israel’s parliament the Knesset would convene on Tuesday to debate and ultimately reject his request.

Israeli media reported that the attorney general filed the indictment at the Jerusalem District Court shortly after he withdrew his immunity bid.

As election approaches, reacting to the development, Mr Netanyahu’s chief elections rival, Benny Gantz, who leads the centrist Blue and White alliance, 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,” Mr Gantz added.

President Trump invited both Mr Gantz and Mr Netanyahu to Washington to discuss his peace plan, which has already been rejected by the Palestinians on the grounds it will shatter their hopes of statehood.

Officials in Washington said Mr Trump, who is close to the Israeli premier, had invited them both to silence any suggestions he was trying to influence the outcome of Israel’s March election which is once again expected to be very tight.

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