Israel’s Netanyahu says he will seek immunity in graft cases

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media in Jerusalem January 1, 2020 REUTERS/ Ronen Zvulun

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday he would ask parliament to protect him from prosecution in the three graft cases he faces, a politically-risky move that could delay criminal proceedings against him for months.

Netanyahu was indicted in November on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust over allegations he granted state favours worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israeli media barons in return for gifts and favourable coverage.

He denies any wrongdoing, saying he is the victim of a witch hunt by the media and left to oust a popular right-wing leader. 

A trial cannot get under way once an immunity request is made, and Netanyahu announced the move in a speech on live television just four hours before a deadline for an application was to expire.

Netanyahu said in his address that the charges against him were politically motivated and he was entitled to parliament’s protection.

“In a democracy, only the people decide who will lead them,” said Netanyahu, who has been in power consecutively for the past decade and has likened the indictment against him to an attempted coup.