Amending Immunity Law Won’t Be Part of Coalition Deal, Netanyahu's Party Says

The amendment could help not only the prime minister, but also additional coalition members who face possible prosecution on corruption charges

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office, Sunday, May 12, 2019.
Gali Tibbon,AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party said Friday that a proposed amendment to the law governing legislators’ immunity from prosecution will not be included in the coalition agreements. The exclusion of the issue would not bar Likud from advancing the legislation.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who heads the party’s coalition negotiations team, said in a statement Friday that “contrary to rumors and reports, the topic of immunity is not part of the coalition agreements we are putting together.” Likud spokesman Jonathan Urich confirmed Levin’s statement on behalf of Netanyahu.

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Likud seeks to restore automatic immunity from prosecution for legislators, which until a 2005 amendment was passed, could be revoked by the Knesset. Under the previous version of the law, which Likud hopes to reinstate, the attorney general could argue the case for rescinding an MK’s immunity before the House Committee, which had the authority to accept or reject the request.

The amendment could help not only Netanyahu but also additional coalition members who face possible prosecution on corruption charges, including Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Haim Katz, Interior Minister Arye Dery and former coalition whip MK David Bitan.

MK Michal Shir joined her Likud colleague Gideon Sa’ar in coming out publicly against their party’s plans to push an amendment designed to protect Netanyahu’s immunity from prosecution. Shir, a former adviser to Sa’ar, wrote on Twitter Friday that she supports the prime minister and at the same time thinks it wrong and unnecessary to pass laws tailored for a particular person. Regarding the attacks within the party on Sa’ar for his critical remarks, Shir added: “Likud is a democratic movement. A plurality of opinions is a benefit, not a disadvantage.”

In an interview with Israel Channel 12 News on Thursday, Sa’ar said the proposed amendment would not help Netanyahu and would hurt Likud. He did not, however, say he would vote against the bill and added that there is no legal bar to Netanyahu’s continuing to serve as premier even after his expected indictment.

“It is not for naught that the leftist media doesn’t stop embracing Gideon Sa’ar, because he never misses an opportunity to undermine and try to bring down Netanyahu,” said a response issued on behalf of the prime minister.

Last week Haaretz reported that Likud plans to advance the “broad override clause” that would allow the Knesset and cabinet ministers to ignore rulings of the High Court of Justice in administrative matters, not just in cases where it strikes down legislation. The proposed law would permit the annulment of a High Court decision to rescind Netanyahu’s immunity, if such a decision is made.

Shir also came in for criticism within Likud for her remarks. MK Amir Ohana claimed that opposition to the amendment stemmed from a desire “to get strokes from the media,” adding: “We are team players. Happily, most of us act as such. Unfortunately, not all of us.”