Coalition Whip: I Will Vote to Preserve Netanyahu's Immunity if Indicted

Asked about maintaining his immunity, Netanyahu said: 'I do not think it is relevant because I do not think there will be an indictment'

David Amsalem (L) and Benjamin Netanyahu, January 8, 2018
Emil Salman

David Amsalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition whip, said on Tuesday that if Netanyau were indicted he would vote in favor of a clause that preserves the prime minister's immunity. The clause Amsalem is referred to allows members of the Knesset to request that their immunity not be lifted in the case of an indictment that was "brought forward in bad faith or in a discriminatory manner."

"If it turns out that we can use this clause, I will vote for it," Amsalem said in an interview with Channel 2 - which first reported on the possibility of using the clause. He added: "The clause is not the point. I think a coup in the state of Israel is much worse than making use of a technicality."

The immunity law, which was ammended 13 years ago, allows lawmakers to preserve their immunity in cases where "criminal proceedings would cause significant damage to the ability of the Knesset or one of its committees to represent the electorate."

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"Sometimes you sacrifice a soldier for the greater good," Amsalem added. "Israel's democracy is in grave danger, and we must take drastic action to protect it. If we were speaking of a prime minister who stole, received funds, robbed a bank or compromised national security – but you know that's not the case."

If indicted, Netanyahu has the option of advancing a law that prohibits the prime minister from standing trial while he is in office, known as "The French Law." However, in this case, it would be necessary to pass a Basic Law, which requires three votes in the plenum, a series of hearings and ongoing votes in committees. Maintaining Netanyahu's immunity requires only one vote in the committee and then one vote in the plenum. This move is still vulnerable to veto by the High Court, who could overturn the decision.

During a press conference on Tuesday, announcing Amir Yaron as the next Bank of Israel governor, Netanyahu was asked about the clause to maintain immunity. Netanyahu responded, "I do not think that question is relevant because I do not think there will be an indictment. I have yet to discuss it, and I don't think I will need to."

Grilled for the 12th time

Last Friday, Israel Police questioned Netanyahu in two of his corruption probes for five hours – the 12th time he has been questioned in relation to the various probes. The questioning on Friday revolved around the so-called Case 1000 and Case 2000. 

Case 1000 alleges Netanyahu and his wife received lavish gifts from Israeli Hollywood entertainment magnate Arnon Milchan and Australian businessman James Packer as bribes for beneficial legislation and personal favors.

In Case 2000, Netanyahu is accused of offering Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes advantageous government media policy in return for favorable news coverage.

In February, Israel Police announced it was recommending Netanyahu be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the two cases.