Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: AFP
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: AFP

Jerusalem — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that he is withdrawing his bid for parliamentary immunity from prosecution on corruption charges.

Israel’s longest-serving prime minister said in a statement that the immunity proceedings in parliament would have been a “circus” and he did not want to take part in this “dirty game”.

Netanyahu, who denies all wrongdoing, said: “I informed the Knesset speaker that I am withdrawing my immunity request.”

The case now moves towards trial, a process that could take months or years. The right-winger, who faces a national election in March, is under no legal obligation to resign.

He is now in Washington for meetings with US President Donald Trump ahead of the release of Trump’s long-delayed Israel-Palestinian peace plan, which the Palestinians have already rejected.

Israel’s attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit indicted Netanyahu on corruption charges — the first of their kind against a serving Israeli prime minister — last November following a long-running investigation. The charges included bribery, breach of trust and fraud.

Netanyahu’s political opponents, including the centrist former general Benny Gantz, made his legal troubles a centrepiece of their campaigns against him in two Israeli elections last year.

He is suspected of wrongfully accepting $264,000 worth of gifts, which prosecutors said include cigars and Champagne from tycoons, and of dispensing favours in alleged bids for improved coverage by Israel’s biggest selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, and the Walla website.

Netanyahu could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of bribery and a maximum three-year term for fraud and breach of trust.

Reuters