Israel‘s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will ask for immunity from corruption charges in a move that could delay his trial for months.
The request to parliament is expected to put the trial on hold until after elections in March, when Mr Netanyahu hopes to shield himself from prosecution by winning a majority coalition.
His announcement means the forthcoming election campaign is likely to focus on whether he should be granted immunity or step down to stand trial.
A recent poll indicated that a majority of Israelis oppose giving him immunity.
The right-wing Likud party leader was indicted in November on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust over allegations he granted state favours worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israeli media barons in return for gifts and favourable coverage.
He denies any wrongdoing, saying he is the victim of a witch-hunt by the media and the left to oust him.
Mr Netanyahu, who failed to assemble a governing majority following back-to-back-elections last year, plans to attempt to win a third term in office in March.
In a nationally televised address, he repeated his assertion that he was the victim of an unfair conspiracy and that he would seek to invoke the law that would protect him from prosecution while still in office.
“In order to continue to lead Israel to great achievements, I intend to approach the speaker of the Knesset in accordance with chapter 4C of the law, in order to fulfil my right, my duty and my mission to continue to serve you for the future of Israel,” he said.
The request is likely to mean parliament will address the matter after the March elections.
The current caretaker government is not empowered to make a decision on granting immunity.
To debate the matter, parliament would have to appoint a special committee that needs to study the request. But it remains unclear whether it will be allowed to do so.
Additional reporting by agencies
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