Despite Netanyahu Retraction, Knesset to Meet on Immunity

YERUSHALAYIM -
The Knesset. (Hadas Parush/Flash90/File)

Although there is no longer any need for it, the Knesset will continue with its agenda to establish a panel that was to hear Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s request for parliamentary immunity on corruption charges he faces.

Netanyahu on Tuesday morning withdrew his request for parliamentary immunity, saying that the session was a “circus” that is “part of the obsessive persecution of me by the ‘anybody but Bibi’ crowd.”

The Knesset, although dispersed, was called back in a special session by Speaker Yuli Edelstein, after legal opinions handed down said that he was required to do so if the majority of MKs requested it. The Knesset agenda was set last week, and will take place on Tuesday – apparently in order to give the more than 40 MKs who asked to speak an opportunity to do so.

All of those speakers are to be from the opposition, as the Likud and its right-wing allies had planned to boycott the session.

In his initial response, Blue and White head Benny Gantz said that “the time has come to move forward. Israelis have a choice – a prime minister who will work full time for them, or one who will be required to deal with his own issues. No one can run a country and fight three criminal cases on bribery and breach of trust at the same time.”

Gantz’s party mate and candidate for prime minister along with him, Yair Lapid, said that Netanyahu “did the right thing” by withdrawing his request. “A prime minister cannot manage a country from the stance of an indicted lawbreaker who will be spending his time in court.”

Responses on the left were similar. Labor-Meretz-Gesher head Amir Peretz said that “it was about time Netanyahu left the political scene. Let him go deal with his criminal matters and allow us to worry about who really deserves immunity.”

Meretz head Nitzan Horowitz said that “Netanyahu has failed in his efforts to escape justice. Netanyahu is truly involved in historical events – the shame of the century, the first prime minister to serve while under indictment for bribery.”

United Arab List head Ayman Odeh said “the path to trial is clear, and no diplomatic show like the one planned for Tuesday can prevent Netanyahu from having to face justice.”

Among Likud members, response to the decision was positive. Yediot Acharonot quoted MKs as saying that the prime minister “did the right thing. The request for immunity hurt him politically and should never have been made in the first place.”

The report quoted MKs as saying that Netanyahu came to the decision over the past week, on the basis of the understanding that he would not be granted immunity even if asked for it. The committee that was to be chosen was set to be weighted with MKs who will not be sympathetic to that request, as the majority of MKs, including Yisrael Beytenu, was set to vote for a committee that is set to deny the request.