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Netanyahu’s Office Denies Broadcaster’s Claim That PM Has Formally Requested Immunity

© AFP 2023 / GALI TIBBONIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting of the right-wing bloc at the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in Jerusalem on 20 November 2019.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting of the right-wing bloc at the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in Jerusalem on 20 November 2019.  - Sputnik International
The Israeli prime minister was indicted last month on charges of bribery, corruption, and breach of trust, but managed to retain the leadership of the governing Likud party earlier this month. He has been expected to formally ask the parliament to grant him immunity by a January 1 deadline to avoid trial.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not made a formal request for immunity from the country's parliament, the prime minister's office said late Monday.

A spokesperson for Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein cited by The Times of Israel also denied that the prime minister had made any such request.

Earlier Monday, the Hebrew-language broadcaster Channel 13 reported that Netanyahu had made a formal request for immunity from prosecution with Israel’s parliament.

Netanyahu’s Legal Troubles

Netanyahu was formally indicted on charges of corruption and breach of trust in November, with prosecutors accusing him of accepting expensive gifts in exchange for political favours and of illegally seeking to influence the media to run positive coverage of his premiership. The prime minister denies any wrong-doing and claims his indictment is a “witch hunt” and “attempted coup” by his political opponents.

On Sunday, Netanyahu hinted that he may formally request immunity from prosecution, telling supporters that immunity was “a cornerstone of democracy,” but added that the “only immunity” he was seeking was “immunity from idle propaganda.”

Netanyahu has until January 1 to formally request immunity, and would require the support of 61 members of Israel’s 120-seat Knesset for immunity to be approved. The prime minister’s party, Likud, has 32 seats in the Knesset, and his alliance of religious and right-wing nationalist parties remains five seats shorts of a majority, meaning half a dozen opposition parties would need to approve immunity to prevent a trial.

Israel has been stuck in an unprecedented political stalemate since legislative elections in April, in which Netanyahu and Likud failed to cobble together a governing coalition. This led to new snap elections in September, where Netanyahu again failed to put together a coalition. Israelis are set to go to the polls for a third time in March 2020. Until then, Netanyahu is serving as head of a caretaker government.

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