‘Political betrayal’: Knesset speaker under fire from own Likud party over Netanyahu immunity call

The Knesset speaker “will not be forgiven,” say Likud officials, for what they call a political betrayal.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein began taking fire immediately after announcing Sunday that he will allow the newly set House Committee to convene next week to discuss Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for immunity from charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.

One senior member of his Likud party said angrily, “If he doesn’t change his decision, it looks like he’s finished in the Likud.”

A second agreed, saying, “If Edelstein had any dreams of being president, he lost the Likud with this decision. We won’t support him. The Likud won’t forgive him for this.”

“Edelstein sold us out, and cheaply,” said another. “When it comes from him, it legitimizes what Blue and White is doing. He’s fueling the Blue and White’s campaign.”

The Knesset’s legal adviser ruled last week that even though a transitional Knesset usually cannot form committees such as the one that rules on immunity requests, the law says that such requests should be considered “as soon as possible,” and therefore the House Committee seats could be filled. The parties opposing the Likud immediately pressed for the Knesset speaker to give his necessary permission, since they will have a majority there and can easily deny Netanyahu’s request.

The upshot is that the three court cases against Netanyahu could begin much sooner than expected, as the trials can only start after the House Committee rules on the immunity issue.

Edelstein made his unpopular decision even though he personally thinks that the hearings will turn into a “political show,” because he said he is determined to obey the law.

“As I said a week ago,” Edelstein noted when he made his announcement, “the hearing process for the prime minister’s immunity request has been contaminated. The [opposition] parties will turn the Knesset’s House Committee hearings into a political show for the elections, something which cannot be allowed to happen, and they will turn the legislature into a jungle. There was a bitter taste of this at the hearing held by the Arrangements Committee just a few days ago.”

On the other hand, he had also committed to “make all the relevant decisions based on the values that I have followed my entire life, and in adherence to the law, the Knesset’s regulations, and legal precedent.”

Edelstein decided that the committee should only meet next Tuesday, due to the arrival of over 50 world leaders this week to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It would “constitute a disgrace for the legislature” to have the heads of so many countries witness the political “scuffles” in the Knesset, he said.

According to a report in Ynet, Netanyahu’s advisers are divided over whether to boycott the hearings since their conclusions are foregone and its discussions could hurt him further, or stretch them out with procedural issues, hopefully delaying their ruling until the elections.