Israeli Right-wing Coalition Parties to Boycott Vote on Netanyahu's Immunity Request

Netanyahu's coalition lawmakers won't attend deliberations, but premier doesn't have a majority to block vote on his bid for immunity in three graft cases

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves after delivering a statement regarding his intention to file a request to the Knesset for immunity from prosecution, Jerusalemת January 1, 2020.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves after delivering a statement regarding his intention to file a request to the Knesset for immunity from prosecution, Jerusalemת January 1, 2020.Credit: AFP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Right-wing coalition parties announced Sunday that they intend to boycott a Knesset plenum vote on whether the Israeli parliament should set up a House Committee to discuss Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's request to receive immunity from prosecution in the three criminal cases he had been charged in. 

The parties that are set to shun the vote are the premier's own Likud party, the ultra-Orthodox parties United Torah Judaism and Shas as well as the right-wing alliance Yamina. 

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The decision not to attend the vote was initiated by coalition whip Miki Zohar (Likud), who had explained that the lawmakers have decided not to attend the discussion in protest over "the opposition behaving in a disgraceful and aggressive way through a random majority that was attained by Kahol Lavan." 

The Knesset is scheduled to vote Tuesday on convening a legislative panel to discuss Netanyahu's immunity request on Thursday. In November Netanyahu was charged with fraud, bribery and breach of trust in three graft cases.

Earlier on Sunday, Likud and Kahol Lavan officials said that the Knesset discussions on Netanyahu's immunity request may be delayed due to the premier's planned trip to the United States to discuss the unveiling of U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan.

Netanyahu does not have a majority to block the vote in any case. Assuming the legislature approves the measure, the Knesset House Committee will begin its deliberations on Thursday.

Benny Gantz, Shas leader Arye Dery and Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Knesset, January 24, 2020.
Benny Gantz, Shas leader Arye Dery and Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Knesset, January 24, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

Following the coalition's announcement, Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List alliance of Arab parties, said his party would make sure that "that corrupt man will be brought to justice and pay for his crimes."

Sources in both parties said they expected the debate and vote in the Knesset on Tuesday to take place as scheduled, since the prime minister does not have to attend the session in order to hold the vote, and Kahol Lavan may even agree to a vote pairing arrangement in order to offset his absence.

However, the sources said stated that it would be difficult for the Knesset House Committee to begin its deliberations in the prime minister's absence. Netanyahu will be asked to address the panel, and he has a right to attend its sessions, to respond to and comment on the proceedings and to submit objections to its agenda.

Any delay will reduce the likelihood of the committee's completing its deliberations on Netanyahu's immunity request within a reasonable amount of time before the March 2 general election, as per the request of Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon. Yinon did not give the Knesset House Committee a deadline, however.

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