Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has reportedly decided to request from parliament immunity from prosecution in three criminal cases against him. The prime minister is expected to push ahead this week with the move, which he vowed not to do during the last election campaign. It is not widely supported by the public or even within his Likud party. Following the news, Netanyahu released a statement saying: “Contrary to reports, a request for immunity is a temporary matter for a period in office only and is not an evasion from facing charges.” According to media reports, Netanyahu will argue that his landslide victory in last week’s Likud leadership primary gave him a strong mandate to continue leading the country until the March 2 national vote and he therefore cannot be distracted by his legal troubles. Although the prime minister is not assured of receiving the necessary backing of a majority of lawmakers, simply putting in the request would effectively delay a potential trial for months. This is because before the motion can be voted on in the full plenum, it must first be approved by a special legislative committee that, due to the political dysfunction in Jerusalem, has been disbanded. Accordingly, the issue can only be taken up after a new governing coalition is formed. Should Netanyahu ask for immunity, the attorney-general would be unable to formally indict him until at least mid-April.
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