Israel Election 2019: Netanyahu Has No Immunity

Netanyahu speaks to supporters on election night, September 17, 2019.
Ofer Vaknin

The election held Tuesday, only five months after the previous one, is very much a vote about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s continuation in office.

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Although the final results are not yet in, and despite the differences between the exit polls of the three TV stations, it may be understood from the polls that the prime minister has failed.

Netanyahu was unable to win the 61 seats he had set as his goal to form a government that would grant him immunity from prosecution in the three cases against him pending a hearing. The public said no on Tuesday to the political escape plan he concocted together with his natural partners, the plan that would allow him to evade prosecution and bring down the rule of law in Israel.

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This is good news, even if all the moves of the heads of the other parties are still unclear. The results of Tuesday’s election means that for Netanyahu to evade indictments, he will have to drag another party into the right-wing bloc from the center left, or, alternatively, bring in Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu. But less than six months ago, Lieberman torpedoed a formation of a government headed by Netanyahu, and on Tuesday the chairman of Labor-Gesher, Amir Peretz, said he would not sit in the same government with Netanyahu.

In two weeks, Netanyahu is to meet with Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit for a hearing, at the end of which he could find himself in court. Petty politics and narrow interests must not allow Netanyahu to evade the law. The time has come to put an end to the destructive escape route that has stretched on now for two years; a route that has threatened to destroy government institutions and shake the entire country; a route that continued with the failure to form a new government after the April election and the breach of Clause 9 of the Basic Law on the Government, to return the mandate given by President Reuven Rivlin to establish a government, which resulted in another election.

An entire country has been held hostage to the personal whims of one man and his court of sycophants. On Tuesday night Lieberman declared: “Everything we said before the election we say after the elections.” He was once again referring to a secular unity government, without the ultra-Orthodox parties. The practical significance of his statements could mean a government without Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s tricks are disappearing from up his sleeves. It is hoped that soon his term as prime minister comes to an end, and his term as an indicted individual defending himself in court begins.

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