Immunity - Questions and answers

Netanyahu’s lawyers wrote Edelstein that he was asking for immunity on the grounds that he was unfairly singled out and that prosecuting him would harm the functioning of the government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting, December 2019. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting, December 2019.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
What is parliamentary immunity?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Wednesday, asking him to enable the Knesset House Committee to vote on granting him temporary immunity from prosecution while the current Knesset is in office. But there is currently no Knesset House Committee, and there will not be one until a government is formed after the March 2 election – unless Edelstein and Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon permit the committee to be formed under special circumstances.
Can Netanyahu get immunity in this Knesset?
No. Edelstein, Yinon and Blue and White faction chairman Avi Nissenkorn will meet on Sunday to decide on Nissenkorn’s request for a House Committee to be formed. But Edelstein has veto power on the matter and it is very unlikely that Edelstein will agree. If a committee is formed, there is a majority against immunity for Netanyahu, because Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman announced that he opposes it.
Can Netanyahu get immunity in the next Knesset?
Only if the Right wins 61 seats in the March 2 election, not counting Yisrael Beytenu. Former justice minister Ayelet Shaked (New Right) also said her party has not decided on the matter. That makes it very unlikely Netanyahu could ever obtain immunity.
Then why is he asking for immunity?
Netanyahu’s lawyers wrote to Edelstein that he was asking for immunity on the grounds that he was unfairly singled out and that prosecuting him would harm the functioning of the government and the Knesset. But another reason is that Netanyahu’s criminal trial cannot begin until the immunity issue is settled. Since that will only happen when a government is formed, he could have an interest in postponing the immunity decision for as long as possible. The immunity request could also help Netanyahu’s attorney’s obtain incriminating information against him from the state prosecution that they have not yet received that could help him in his trial.

Does asking for immunity mean he is guilty?
No. Netanyahu professed his innocence, and he is innocent until proven guilty. Asking for immunity from prosecution is no admission of guilt.
If Netanyahu is granted immunity by the Knesset, is it automatic?
No. There would be appeals to the Supreme Court, which would likely overturn the decision. Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit would also likely oppose it.
Is he really asking for only temporary immunity?
No. Netanyahu has also asked for “substantive immunity,” which is permanent, in cases 1000 and 2000. He asked for this special immunity on the grounds that his alleged crimes were committed in the act of serving the country. In the expensive gift affair, Case 1000, Netanyahu’s lawyers say the case deals with a law enabling a tax shelter for millionaires that the prime minister opposed. Case 2000, the newspaper collusion affair, relates to the Israel Hayom Law that Netanyahu opposed.

Who was the immunity law intended for?
MKs sued for libel for statements they made as MKs, such as Justice Minister Amir Ohana’s statements about state’s witness Nir Hefetz. It was not intended to evade prosecution in criminal cases.


Tags Knesset law