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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has 30 days to ask his country’s legislators for immunity on corruption charges after a copy of his indictment was handed over to the Knesset on Monday, starting the clock on what’s likely to be a lengthy legal battle with immense global implications.
A three-judge panel is gearing up to hear the unprecedented case in Jerusalem district court, while Israel’s attorney general is expected to call more than 300 witnesses — including billionaires James Packer and Sheldon Adelson.
If Netanyahu asks Israel’s legislative body for immunity, however, the trial could be put on hold for months, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Israel’s attorney general Avichai Mandelblit announced last week that Netanyahu is not required to leave office following his indictment, even though several political leaders in the country called on the premier to resign.
In a statement released Monday, Mandelblit said Netanyahu can remain interim prime minister despite the fraud, breach of trust and bribery allegations, giving a small boost to the embattled leader.
Israeli law requires other public officials, including Cabinet ministers, to resign if charged with a crime but doesn’t explicitly state a prime minister has to leave office in those situations.
The allegations against Netanyahu include claims he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in champagne and cigars from billionaire friends, offered to trade favors with a newspaper publisher and used his influence to help a wealthy telecom magnate in exchange for favorable coverage on a popular news site.
Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has dismissed the charges against him as an “attempted coup” and is framing his legal battle as a witch hunt involving political rivals, the media, police and prosecutors, all pressuring a “weak” attorney general.
Fox News’ Yonat Friling, Talia Kaplan and the Associated Press contributed to this report.