Likud disputes rumors Netanyahu will request immunity: ‘He’ll announce decision in coming days’

Nothing has been resolved yet, says party after Israeli media report Netanyahu will make the request this week.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Contrary to news reports, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not yet decided if he will request immunity from prosecution in the cases pending against him, the Likud party announced on Sunday.

He “will announce his decision in the coming days,” said the Likud party in a statement, reacting to a story Saturday on Channel 12 News that Netanyahu intends to ask for immunity after his overwhelmingly victory in the Likud leadership primary last week.

His argument , according to the report, is that since the public gave him such a vote of confidence, he should be able to run the country without the need to fend off bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges.

The party statement also made clear that immunity is not a tactic to get Netanyahu out of a trial altogether.

“Contrary to reports, immunity is only a temporary issue for a tenure period and is not an evasion of prosecution,” it said.

One of the opposition parties, the Democratic Union, criticized Netanyahu, “He who says, ‘There will be nothing because there is nothing,’ should fight for his innocence in court and not hold a whole country hostage.”

Netanyahu has one month to make the request for immunity from the day he is indicted, according to the law. That makes the deadline this Thursday.

The Knesset’s top legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, ruled earlier this month that the Knesset House Committee has to decide on the request. However, the committee doesn’t meet in the transition period before the March elections. It will only be formed after a new government is in place.

Most crucially for the prime minister, the court cases would have to be delayed until the Knesset has had its say.

This means that if Netanyahu goes through with his immunity bid, no legal process can start until after coalition negotiations are successful, Knesset committee seats are assigned, and the pro and con arguments are heard.

If the Knesset House Committee rejects the application, the matter goes no further. Only if it approves immunity does the request then get sent to the full plenum for a vote.

If the right-wing bloc wins the elections outright, the Committee will have an automatic majority to approve immunity and a full Knesset vote would go Netanyahu’s way.

If the division of strength stays about the same as it is now – which is what current polls show – then Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beiteinu party will again be the deciding factor. Liberman has hinted that he would not stand in the way of putting the prime minister on trial.