Last Chance for Netanyahu to Decide on Immunity

Yerushalayim -
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s office in Yerushalayim, Dec., 2019. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, Pool)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has until midnight tonight to seek parliamentary immunity from prosecution on corruption charges that he is set to be indicted on. A report on Channel 12 Wednesday said that according to sources close to the Prime Minister, he has not decided on whether or not to pursue that course.

“There are major discussions going on about the issue,” Channel 12 reported. “Some of Netanyahu’s advisors believe they have no choice but to seek immunity, but others believe that if he does so it will become a weapon in the hand of opponents, who will seek to brand Netanyahu as a criminal with something to hide, thus preventing him from assembling a coalition of 61 MKs. We said earlier in the week that it appeared that the decision would be made at the last minute, and that certainly seems to be the case,” the report said.

Netanyahu dodged a major pitfall on his road to forming the next government on Tuesday, when the High Court said that it saw no reason to rule on Netanyahu’s fitness to do so before the election. In response to a petition by leftist groups seeking to bar Netanyahu from consideration as a prime ministerial candidate, High Court Chief Justice Esther Hayout said that Netanyahu “has a right to run. We don’t know what the results will be,” and only after the election would it be feasible to decide whether a candidate on trial for corruption could be appointed to form a government.

If he does request immunity, the Knesset will set up a committee to discuss the request. However, the request needs the approval of a majority of MKs in order for immunity to take effect, so the actual request will not be discussed until after the March elections at the earliest. In a statement, the Likud said Saturday night that “immunity is a temporary matter for the Prime Minister’s term in office, and is not an attempt to evade justice.”