Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday requested the Knesset, his country's parliament, grant him immunity from prosecution on corruption charges as he seeks to avoid a potentially damaging trial ahead of the country's March general election.
Benny Gantz, leader of the center-right Blue and White party, said the prime minister's request shows "Netanyahu knows he's guilty."
"The interests of Netanyahu will win or the national interest will win," said Gantz, Netanyahu's main political rival. "Or there will be an extreme immunity government or there will be broad unity government. Or the kingdom of Netanyahu or the State of Israel."
Netanyahu continues to see himself as above domestic (as well as international) law https://t.co/FVeMhoVhis
— Jonathan "Boo and Vote" Cohn (@JonathanCohn) January 2, 2020
Netanyahu was indicted last November on three charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. The prime minister has maintained that the charges are fraudulent and called the investigation an "attempted coup," echoing language U.S. President Donald Trump used to denounce the impeachment process.
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Observers noted the parallels between the two leaders' rhetoric, highlighting Trump's claims of "absolute immunity" from criminal investigations.
"Trump claims absolute immunity," NBC legal contributor Katie Phang tweeted. "Sounds like he and his buddy, Netanyahu, have the same cheat sheet."
Netanyahu's immunity request must be approved by the Knesset's House Committee before it receives a vote before the full chamber.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Netanyahu's request "most likely puts the trial on hold until after elections in March, when he hopes to win a majority coalition that will shield him from prosecution."
"The announcement essentially turns the upcoming election campaign into a referendum on whether Netanyahu should be granted immunity and remain in office or step down to stand trial," AP noted.
A poll released Sunday by Israel's Channel 12 News found that 51 percent of Israelis oppose granting Netanyahu immunity while just 33 percent support it.