Legal Adviser Appointment Pits Netanyahu's Likud Against Itself

'If the Knesset remains without an acting legal adviser this could cause chaos during the sensitive period while a new government is being formed,' a Knesset source said

Jonathan Lis
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Likud MK Miki Zohar at a Knesset meeting to discuss Netanyahu's immunity request, February 17, 2020.
Likud MK Miki Zohar at a Knesset meeting to discuss Netanyahu's immunity request, February 17, 2020.Credit:
Jonathan Lis

The clash this week between Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and his fellow Likud MK Miki Zohar has ignited a debate over who has the floor in Israel’s parliament.

Edelstein asked to extend the Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon’s term for three months, beyond April 1 when it is due to end, while Zohar objected to allowing Yinon to serve for any further period.

Yinon ran afoul of Likud when he allowed the Knesset to set up a committee to handle Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for immunity from prosecution. Netanyahu rescinded the request once he realized he had no majority on the committee. He accused Yinon of acting out of a conflict of interest because his life partner, Amit Merari,  was part of the prosecution team that drew up the indictments against Netanyahu.

“Who runs the Knesset? The speaker or the prime minister via Zohar?” a Knesset source said this week. “If the Knesset remains without an acting legal adviser this could cause chaos during the sensitive period while a new government is being formed. It looks like there are people interested in causing such chaos.”

The controversy puts Yinon’s professional future in the hands of politicians which endangers his professional independence.

“The Knesset’s legal adviser cannot depend on politicians whether on the right or the left. He shouldn’t have to be afraid to make decisions or worried that any opinion he expresses will anger one of the blocs,” and that this could affect whether or not his term is extended, said a lawmaker of a center-left party.

Yinon will have served in the position for two terms and was expected to be appointed for a third term.

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