Netanyahu corruption indictment filed after he withdraws immunity plea

His main rival Benny Gantz says 'no one can run a state and at the same time manage three serious criminal cases'

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Israel's attorney general on Tuesday officially filed the indictment against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in three corruption cases, kick-starting the trial against the country's longest-ever serving premier.

It came after he decided to drop his request for parliamentary immunity from corruption charges.

Mr Netanyahu is currently leading a caretaker government ahead of the country's third election in less than a year while under the cloud of a criminal corruption indictment.

The announcement came hours before he was to meet in the White House with President Donald Trump for the unveiling of a long-awaited US peace plan.

"A few minutes ago I informed the Knesset speaker that I'm withdrawing the immunity request," Mr Netanyahu wrote on Facebook. "I won't let my political opponents use this issue to disturb the historic move I'm leading."

The Knesset, Israel's parliament had been scheduled to vote on Tuesday morning to convene a committee to debate and eventually rule on the request.

"In this fateful moment for the people of Israel, while I'm in the US on a historic mission to form Israel's final borders and ensure our security for future generations, another immunity circus show is due to open at the Knesset," Mr Netanyahu said.

Mr Netanyahu denies the charges against him and says he is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.

His opponents had already mustered a majority in the legislature to deny him immunity.

Mr Netanyahu's decision opens the way for Israeli authorities to go ahead and set a date for the premier's trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

It could even open before March 2, when Mr Netanyahu seeks reelection in a general election which pits his right-wing Likud against the centrist Blue and White party in what is likely to be a close contest.

Following Mr Netanyahu's announcement, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said he had presented the charge sheet to the Jerusalem district court, a formality he had refrained from hitherto "to enable a debate on the prime minister's request for immunity from parliament."

The court will now set a date for the beginning of the trial.

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