Editorial

The Target Bank of Likud

Benjamin Netanyahu gives a statement after winning a leadership primary near Tel Aviv on December 27, 2019.
Jack GUEZ / AFP

Make no mistake: The reason Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon found himself in Likud’s target bank was the professional opinion he submitted saying there was no impediment to forming a committee to discuss Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for immunity from prosecution, despite the Knesset’s being in a pre-election recess.

The prime minister and his allies in Likud understood full well that after Avigdor Lieberman announced that the legislators of his Yisrael Beiteinu party would “vote unanimously against immunity for Netanyahu,” if the committee were to be convened the immunity request would fail for lack of support from a majority of panel members. And what’s the point of the Knesset House Committee if Likud doesn’t control it?

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If the committee is established now and it rejects Netanyahu’s immunity request, his indictments will be filed in court and his trial could begin immediately. This is certainly not what the prime minister had in mind: Netanyahu only requested immunity in order to buy himself a little more time, until after the election. His loyalists are seeking to help him postpone the convening of the committee at this stage.

Therefore no credit should be given to the groundless story Likud is spreading that Yinon has a conflict of interest because his wife, Amit Merari, was involved in putting together the indictment against Netanyahu. And this applies all the more to the ludicrous call by Netanyahu’s social-media manager, Topaz Luk, to prosecute Yinon for breach of trust. It’s hard to believe Likud is willing to stoop this low purely for the sake of enabling its leader to avoid the law.

They’re going after Yinon not because of his wife, but because the hot potato known as the “Netanyahu cases” got passed to him. When the investigations began, the Israel Police in general, and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh in particular, were the targets of all the criticism and incitement. When the police submitted their recommendations to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and then-State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, they, together with senior prosecutor Liat Ben Ari, who was in charge of the investigations, became public enemies to right-wing Israelis. Now the immunity request has been submitted and it is Yinon’s turn to make a critical decision about Netanyahu: That was all it took for the prime minister’s faithful followers to throw open the gates of hell to the Knesset legal adviser.

It is a new low for Netanyahu, who has the gall to run for reelection when he has three pending indictments, to request immunity. But now that the request has been made, the attempts to prevent its discussion are unacceptable. All of these efforts should be rebuffed, and the committee convened.

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