A Diversionary Tactic

Benjamin Netanyahu points at the ceiling during a meeting with the president of Argentina, Jerusalem, January 24, 2020
Emil Salman

After Benjamin Netanyahu lied on live television when he said he had no intention of seeking parliamentary immunity from prosecution but then asked for it anyway, he is now doing everything he can to delay a debate by the Knesset House Committee on his request. The reason is simple: He can’t expect a majority of the current Knesset to support immunity.

The prime minister and his lawyers are looking to push off the hearings. If they succeed, the closer it gets to March 2 – Election Day – the greater the chances that they’ll enter the twilight zone – when, according to Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon, it will be too late to vote on the immunity request. At that point a decision on his request will have to wait until after the election, when – Netanyahu hopes – the balance of power in the Knesset will change in his favor.

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When he accepted the invitation of U.S. President Donald Trump to visit Washington, Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz did the right thing by insisting on returning to Israel in time for the immunity hearing.

On Tuesday the Knesset will convene to vote on establishing the House Committee that will hear Netanyahu’s request. The parties of the right-wing bloc made fools of themselves on Sunday, when they decided to boycott the debate. If the Knesset succeeds in setting up the House Committee, the six hearings on the immunity request are planned to begin on Thursday and continue for a week. But here’s where Netanyahu’s good friend in the White House comes in. The invitation to Washington and the supposed diplomatic urgency to deal with the Middle East peace plan specifically this week, after a decade of diplomatic procrastination, are expected to provide Netanyahu with the perfect excuse to delay the House Committee hearing planned for Thursday.

There is no limit to Netanyahu’s hypocrisy, sanctimoniousness and cynicism. While the opposition will be portrayed as being preoccupied with such trifles as corruption, bribery and Israeli law, he will be realizing a historic opportunity to serve the Jewish people and expand the sovereign borders of the State of Israel.

Do not fall into Netanyahu’s trap. This is a blatant attempt to deceive the public, similar to a criminal’s diversionary tactic to escape the law. Netanyahu was never interested in a diplomatic solution, and in his 10 years in power he didn’t lift a finger to advance a process of reconciling with the Palestinians and freeing them from the burden of military rule. He couldn’t care less about the conflict now, either. The only future that interests him is his own, and his only goal is to evade prosecution.

Gantz and his colleagues must make it clear to the public that this is what is motivating Netanyahu. After 52 years, the diplomatic process that will supposedly bring salvation can be delayed by five more weeks. There’s no reason to put off the hearings on Netanyahu’s immunity.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.