Labor Official Says Likud Offered Party to Join Gov't in Exchange for Immunity Law

Senior Labor Party official says Labor chair Avi Gabbay refused the offer. Netanyahu has until Wednesday night to form a government

Avi Gabbay (center), with the leadership of the Labor Party, Jerusalem, April 15, 2019.
Emil Salman

A senior Labor Party official said Monday that Likud minister Ze'ev Elkin offered Labor head Avi Gabbay to join the coalition in return for supporting an immunity law which would protect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from indictment.

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Netanyahu, who is facing three cases of corruption, is attempting to safeguard himself from prosecution by restoring the Immunity Law to its previous form.

Under the previous version of the law, the attorney general would have to appear before the Knesset and explain why he wants to rescind an MK’s immunity, whereupon the Knesset House Committee can reject his request.

Netanyahu has until midnight on Wednesday to finalize coalition negotiations, or else the president will task another lawmaker with forming the government. 

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The Labor official told Haaretz that Elkin turning to Labor is "a sign of the pressure Netanyahu is under and of how Lieberman has managed to push him into a corner." He added that Gabbay turned the offer down. 

Likud is mulling whether to bring the matter of dissolving the Knesset - which would send Israel to another election, thus preventing the president from tasking anyone else with forming the government - to a preliminary vote on Monday.

The party is expected to do this if it does not manage to broker a deal between Yisrael Beiteinu and the ultra-Orthodox parties over the military draft bill that brought coalition negotiations to an impasse.

Lieberman and the ultra-Orthodox parties have been stuck over the military conscription bill, which passed the first of three required parliamentary votes in July and would obligate ultra-Orthodox men studying the Torah, who are currently exempt from service, to join the army. 

Earlier this month, Gabbay said he refused an offer to join Netanyahu's government as a minister. Likud denied that such an offer was made.