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January 1, 2020 4:18 pm

Netanyahu Announces He Will Ask Knesset for Immunity From Prosecution on Corruption Charges

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the media at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem, May 30, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday evening that he will ask the Knesset to grant him immunity from prosecution in an ongoing corruption case.

Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said he was asking for immunity to “realize my right, my obligation, and my mission in order to serve you, the citizens of Israel.”

Netanyahu has been indicted on several counts of corruption, including bribery and fraud. He denies the charges and claims that the judiciary and the media are politically biased against him.

The prime minister reiterated these themes during his press conference, saying, “An immunity law is intended to protect elected officials from political frame-ups and indictments aimed at damaging the will of the people. The law is intended to ensure that elected officials can serve the people according to the will of the people, not the will of the officials.”

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“I regret that this is what has happened in my case,” he said. “Frame-up, selective enforcement, blackmail by threats to state witnesses, witness tampering, and a flood of intentional leaks and brainwashing every evening in order to incite against me by misleading public opinion.”

“In a democracy, only the people decide,” Netanyahu asserted.

“I intend to continue to lead Israel to historic achievements,” the prime minister pledged. “Together, we are strengthening our economy, blocking Iran, bringing a defense alliance with the US, establishing peace with Arab states, and enforcing sovereignty in our country.”

“This doesn’t interest our opponents, they have nothing to offer but incitement against me,” he added. “It’s apparently difficult for them that we have made Israel into the eighth superpower in the world.”

Immediately after Netanyahu spoke, his chief rival Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party broadcast a live statement, saying, “This is a difficult day for the State of Israel, and a sad one also for me. I never imagined we would see a day when the prime minister of Israel would avoid standing before the law and the judicial system; that the prime minister would not care about the future of Israel, but only about his personal future.”

Playing off Netanyahu’s frequent assertion that “there will be nothing because there is nothing,” Gantz said, “Netanyahu knows he is guilty. Anyone who thinks there will be nothing because there is nothing would not be afraid to stand trial.”

Israelis now have a choice, Gantz asserted, between “the kingdom of Netanyahu or the State of Israel.”

Gantz also reiterated his previous pledge to form a Knesset committee to prevent Netanyahu from receiving immunity, and claimed that Israel’s citizens are “hostages to Netanyahu’s legal battle.”

Yisrael Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Lieberman, who has been feuding with Netanyahu since Lieberman prevented the prime minister from forming a government in April, sending Israel to a second round of elections, said that his party would vote unanimously against an immunity law. This would make it all but impossible for Netanyahu to cobble together a majority in support of such a law.

“It is now clear beyond any doubt: All that interests Netanyahu is immunity,” Lieberman said. “The State of Israel has become the hostage of Netanyahu’s personal, private problem. He’s not interested in the left, nor the right, nor the religious, nor the secular. The only thing he sees is the immunity coalition.”

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