Knesset speaker decries ‘dirty process’ to prevent immunity from Netanyahu

The speaker argued that the proceedings would become a “a jungle that shames” parliament.

By World Israel News Staff 

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, a member of  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, lashed out at parliamentary legal adviser Eyal Yinon on Sunday, charging that a legal opinion made public earlier in the day by Yinon would be a blow to the integrity of the Knesset.

The legal adviser announced that Edelstein did not have the power to stop the formation of a committee which would review and vote on Netanyahu’s request to receive parliamentary immunity.

Normally, the Knesset House Committee deals with such a request but the committee was never established due to the lack of a fully-functioning parliament as a result of the inability to form a new government coalition since the September 17 election. That election was called after no government was established following an April election.

As a result, Israelis are scheduled to return to the polls for a third time within a year on March 2.

In the meantime, Netanyahu was faced at the beginning of a January with a deadline to announce whether he would ask for immunity or allow trials to go ahead in three cases in which he is accused of corruption.

The prime minister was hoping that the current parliamentary disarray would postpone hearings on his immunity until after the March election.

However, various parties challenging Netanyahu’s Likud in the March ballot have been working on setting up a committee to deal with the issue immediately.

The significance of the timing is that immunity is valid only for the duration of the current Knesset, meaning that the prime minister would have to make the request again after the March ballot.

Even worse for the premier, notes the Israel Democracy Institute, is that if he does not attain a majority to receive immunity now, he could not make another request when the new Knesset takes office in March.

Pundits say that Netanyahu does not seem to have a majority now in favor of receiving immunity.

At a news conference, Edelstein said that he regretted having to lash out at the parliamentary legal adviser’s decision to allow the immunity process to proceed during the term of the outgoing Knesset, but said that it would be a “terrible mistake” to allow the proceedings to take place in the current political climate.

He charged that holding the hearings during an election campaign would provide Netanyahu’s opponents with the opportunity to use the forum for “election propaganda.”

The speaker argued that the proceedings would become a “a jungle that shames” parliament instead of a “fair” review of the issue at hand.

“We all deserve a fair process,” Edelstein said, stressing that it was not only a matter for the prime minister but an important task that the Knesset must pursue in a proper way to maintain its own reputation.

Edelstein is number two on the Likud list after only Netanyahu. However, he denied that he was acting for the party at the price of parliament.

“I have always acted in a statesmanlike way,” he insisted. Though the legal adviser ruled that the speaker could not stop the formation of the committee to discuss immunity, Edelstein vowed that he “will not lend a hand to this dirty process.”

He called on the various factions to “cease” making this a political issue.

However, Netanyahu’s main challenger, Blue and White leader MK Benny Gantz, announced on Sunday afternoon that his faction would be acting to ensure the formation of a committee to hear the immunity request “as soon as possible.”