Jan. 28 (UPI) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that he has withdrawn his request for immunity from prosecution on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
“I will not allow my political opponents to use this matter to interfere with the historic move that I am leading,” he said in a statement published on his personal Facebook page.
Netanyahu had sent the immunity request early this month to the Israeli parliament, known as the Knesset, which was to convene Tuesday to vote on a committee that would debate whether the request should to be granted.
Israel’s longest-serving prime minister was charged in November for receiving gifts as the prime minister, paying for favorable news coverage and implementing regulatory moves to benefit news outlets to spur positive news stories.
Netanyahu has denied all charges against him and said he requested immunity from prosecution until the term of the Knesset expires in order to prevent the government from harm.
“At this fateful hour for the people of Israel, while I am in the U.S. on a historic mission to shape Israel’s permanent borders and ensure our security for future generations, another Knesset show is expected to open in the immunity circus,” Netanyahu said in the statement. He said that his opponents, instead of recognizing the importance of what he was doing, were continuing to engage in “cheap politics.”
“Since I was not given due process, because all the rules of Knesset work were trampled on a rough foot and since the results of the procedure were pre-dictated without proper discussion, I decided not to let this dirty game continue,” he said in announcing his decision to rescind his request.
He said he will “shatter all the disproportionate claims” he is accused of in the charges.
Benny Gantz — Netanyahu’s chief political rival who will face him in the nation’s third election in less than a year after neither politician was able to form a unity government — responded to the withdrawal saying Netanyahu must go to trial and Israel must move forward.
“Israeli citizens have a clear choice: A prime minister who will work for them or a self-employed prime minister,” Gantz said via Twitter. “No one can run a state and simultaneously run three serious criminal cases for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.”