Netanyahu charged with bribery after ending immunity bid

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been charged with bribery and fraud after withdrawing his bid for parliamentary immunity.
Mr Netanyahu faces 10 years in prison if he is found guilty of bribery and three years for fraud and breach of trust.

But the country’s longest serving leader is under no obligation to resign.

In a statement he said the immunity proceedings in parliament would have been a “circus” and said he did not want any part in this “dirty game”.
Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, was likely to have rejected his request for immunity.

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He denies wrongdoing.

Israel’s attorney general Avichai Mandelblit originally indicted Mr Netanyahu on corruption charges in November and moved them to Jerusalem District Court while the prime minister is in Washington DC for the launch of Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan.

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His case will move forward to trial, but could take months or years.
Mr Netanyahu is suspected of wrongfully accepting $264,000 worth of gifts, which prosecutors say includes cigars and champagne, from tycoons and giving favours in return for improved coverage in Israel’s biggest newspaper.
He faces a national election in March, the third in a year.

Image: Benny Gantz is one of Mr Netanyahu’s main rivals
In a statement, Mr Netanyahu said: “In this fateful hour for the people of Israel, when I am in the United States on a historic mission to design the permanent borders of Israel and ensure our security for decades to come, the Knesset is expected to start another spectacle in the circus of removing immunity.
“Since I was not given due process, because all the rules of the Knesset work were trampled on, and since the results of the procedure were pre-dictated without a discussion, I decided not to let this dirty game continue.”
He added: “But right now, I will not allow my political opponents to use this matter to interfere with the historic move I am leading.”

Image: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting
His main political opponent, Benny Gantz, said: “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.”

Source : Sky News