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Netanyahu withdraws hopeless bid for immunity hours before parliament session, leaving Gantz hanging in mid-air

Netanyahu withdraws hopeless bid for immunity hours before parliament session, leaving Gantz hanging in mid-air
In an 11th-hour decision, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has withdrawn his request to parliament to grant him immunity from prosecution. The move apparently undermines his rival Benny Gantz’s US visit.

Netanyahu, who is facing prosecution on several corruption charges, sought immunity from the parliament, but the bid didn’t have the necessary support to pass. The motion was expected to be defeated on Tuesday, but hours before the session the PM announced he was withdrawing his petition.

The statement was published as Netanyahu visited the United States, where President Donald Trump is scheduled to unveil his long-expected ‘Deal of the Century’, an arrangement that will reportedly bring numerous benefits to Israel and support its policies on Palestine.

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The high-profile event will be a boost to Netanyahu, who is facing an unprecedented third snap general election in less than a year, standing against former general Benny Gantz. Washington gave a surprise public relations boost to Gantz – who may become the next Israeli prime minister, should his Blue and White party break the deadlock with Netanyahu’s Likud in March – by offering him a separate meeting with Trump on Monday.

The news about Netanyahu’s withdrawal of the immunity bid reportedly came after Gantz boarded a plane to fly back to Israel to participate in the parliamentary session. He apparently preferred the opportunity to attack his opponent over alleged corruption at home to participating in the unveiling ceremony in Washington, where he would only get a spot subordinate to Netanyahu. But the shrewd veteran PM seems to have outmaneuvered his rival.

Gantz responded to Netanyahu’s move, saying the PM is now going to trial.

“Israeli citizens have a clear choice: a prime minister who will work for them or a self-employed prime minister. No-one can run a state and simultaneously run three serious criminal cases for bribery, fraud and breach of trust,” he said.

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