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Israel's Netanyahu slammed after asking parliament for immunity from corruption charges

Pro-Netanyahu supporters rally outside his residence following his indictment on corruption charges [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 January, 2020

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Netanyahu's request will delay court proceedings over his corruption indictment for months, as MPs will not vote on the issue until after elections on 2 March.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under fire after declaring on Wednesday that he would ask parliament for immunity, weeks after the embattled premier was indicted on a range of corruption charges.

His latest move is expected to delay the start of court proceedings for months, as MPs are not due to vote on the matter until after 2 March elections.

"I intend to make a request to the speaker of the Knesset," Netanyahu told reporters in Jerusalem. 

The request "would be in line with the law... (and) with the goal of continuing to serve you, for the future of Israel."

Read more: Comment: Netanyahu's real crimes

However the leader of the country's opposition party Benny Gantz launched a scathing criticism of his three-time rival for the premiership.

Speaking in Ramat Gan on Wednesday, the head of the Blue and White Party said Netanyahu was avoiding the justice system and accused him of not caring about Israel's future.

"I never imagined that we would see the day that the Prime Minister of Israel would avoid standing before the law and the justice system, that a Prime Minister wouldn't care about the future of the state of Israel, rather only about himself and his individual fate," he said.

"Today it's clear what we're fighting for. Netanyahu knows he's guilty."

Netanyahu was charged in November with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases.

He denies the allegations and accuses prosecutors and the media of a witch hunt.

A sitting prime minister is only required to step down once convicted and after all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.

The supreme court has postponed a decision on whether a premier can be tasked with forming a new government while under indictment.

Allegations against Netanyahu include receiving gifts worth thousands of dollars and offering to change regulations in exchange for positive media coverage.

Despite his legal woes, Netanyahu remains popular within his right-wing Likud party and last week secured a landslide victory in a leadership challenge.

The premier vowed to win the upcoming general election, although early polls indicate the vote could again result in a stalemate.

The 2 March election was called after neither Netanyahu nor Gantz managed to form a majority coalition following September polls.

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