Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he will seek parliamentary immunity from prosecution in the three graft cases against him, mere hours before the deadline to file such a request expires.
"I will stand in court to crush all the unfounded allegations against me. The immunity law is meant to protect public servants from false allegations and to ensure they will be able to serve the people according to the public's will, not the will of the bureaucrats," said Netanyahu in a statement.
"If the state prosecutor and investigators decide to neutralize a Knesset member, they'll open an investigation against them."
The incumbent said he would file an official request to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein in the coming days in order to start the immunity process.
Blue & White party leader MK Benny Gantz gave his own statement minutes after Netanyahu, saying the prime minister was guilty of the charges against him.
"Netanyahu knows he's guilty, a person who believes that he's innocent is not afraid to stand trial," Gantz said. "Either we'll have a radical immunity government or a unified national one. Immunity is not the bedrock of democracy, it is a detriment to democracy," he said, referring to a recent claim by Netanyahu.
Gantz also said that his party will do anything it can to thwart Israel's longest-serving prime minister efforts to receive immunity.
"Blue & White will make every possible legal effort to form the Knesset House Committee in order to prevent immunity from those indicted for crimes."
Yisrael Beytenu Chairman MK Avigdor Liberman announced that his party lawmakers would vote against Netanyahu's request for immunity.
"It is now clear without a shadow of a doubt that all Netanyahu cares about is immunity," said Liberman. "Israel has been taken hostage by his personal and private problems. The only thing standing in the way of a government is immunity. We are not going to be part of an immunity coalition, we will vote against immunity."
A spokesperson on Edelstein's behalf said that the Knesset speaker intends to meet with Knesset legal advisor Eyal Yinon, receive his opinion on the issue and only then will he make his decision whether to initiate an immunity process.
The Knesset House Committee will now have to discuss whether to grant Netanyahu immunity. However, the committee has been defunct in the past year, like most Knesset committees, due to Israel's three consecutive elections.