Knesset Advances Creation of Panel to Decide on Netanyahu’s Immunity

Setting up of committee still needs full Knesset approval

The Knesset Ordering Committee votes on proceeding with addressing Netanyahu's immunity request, January 13, 2020.
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The Knesset’s organizing committee has approved the establishment of a Knesset panel to debate and potentially vote on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for immunity from prosecution in the three corruption cases against him.

The establishment of this committee still requires approval by the full Knesset, and the head of the organizing committee, MK Avi Nissenkorn (Kahol Lavan), said he would try to convene the Knesset for the vote this week. The new committee will include 30 MKs.

After the vote, Nissenkorn said that an absolute majority of Knesset members had expressed the will of the majority of the nation, which is interested in clarifying the immunity issue. “We will manage the debate with fairness and efficiency,” he said.

The organizing committee first decided that it was allowed to discuss the establishment of a Knesset committee without the approval of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. After this was approved, Likud members demanded the holding of another vote, in which the decision was again ratified. The debate was tempestuous, and right-wing Knesset members left in protest.

MK Miki Zohar (Likud) assailed Kahol Lavan members for advancing this debate during an election season. “This will come back at you like a boomerang,” he said. “Now you’re the majority and tomorrow you’ll be a minority. When you are, all the precedents you’ve set here today will benefit the majority that replaces you. Beware, don’t abuse more than is necessary.”

Zohar added that the debate on immunity is a quasi-juridical one which must be held “with open minds and willing souls, but all the opposition factions have announced its results in advance.” He reminded everyone that immunity is valid for one Knesset only, so that if it is approved, another debate will be required in the next Knesset. If the request is denied, Netanyahu will not be able to resubmit his request. At this point, there seems to be a majority opposing his request.

Eyal Yinon, the Knesset’s legal adviser, issued a legal opinion on Sunday saying that Speaker Yuli Edelstein could not veto the convening of the Knesset House Committee.

Edelstein, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, said he disagreed with Yinon’s opinion and that he would not help make the Knesset “the site of cheap election propaganda.” Edelstein added that he could not promise that a fair process would take place, and claiming that there was a “conflict of interest” in the proceedings.