Knesset legal adviser removes hurdle from prosecuting Netanyahu

Yuli Edelstein warns House Committee will be a jungle.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein speaks in a Knesset press conference after Knesset legal advisor Eyal Yinon issued a controversial on Prime Minister Netanyahu's immunity request, January 12, 2020 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein speaks in a Knesset press conference after Knesset legal advisor Eyal Yinon issued a controversial on Prime Minister Netanyahu's immunity request, January 12, 2020
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon issued a controversial ruling on Sunday that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein cannot prevent the formation of a Knesset House Committee that will reject immunity for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The ruling means that Edelstein will have to permit the request of 65 MKs to form the committee, even though it is normally only established after a government is sworn in. Once Netanyahu’s request for immunity is rejected, his indictments can formally be filed to the Jerusalem District Court to allow his corruption trial to begin.
“The decision is in the hands of the MKs and they are able, if they see it as correct, to form the House Committee,” Yinon wrote in the ruling.
Edelstein reacted in a Knesset press conference by saying that he never had a choice to block the committee, because the coalition lacks a majority. But he said he disagreed with Yinon’s decision, warning the House Committee’s proceedings on immunity for Netanyahu will be a jungle or a reality show.
The Knesset speaker indicated he might still be able to prevent Netanyahu’s indictments from being filed because he could prevent the Knesset plenum from convening.
Edelstein accused Blue and White of mafia-style character assassination, while denying that he faced any opposite pressure from Netanyahu and the Likud.
“I’ve been the victim of an aggressive campaign to politicize my role,” he said. “Those who accused me of not being a statesman haven’t served long enough to know what statesmanship is.”
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said he wanted the committee established as soon as possible, to allow Netanyahu’s prosecution to proceed. Gantz wrote on Twitter that Netanyahu will have to face the consequences of his own request for a Knesset vote on granting him immunity from prosecution.
“Netanyahu requested,” Gantz wrote. “Netanyahu will receive.”
  


The first meeting of the Knesset Arrangements Committee that will form the House Committee is expected to already take place on Monday.
The House Committee will vote after some three weeks of deliberations. After the vote to reject immunity, Netanyahu’s indictment will be filed to Jerusalem District Court but will not begin for several months.
Once the indictment is filed, Netanyahu will not be able to request immunity from the next Knesset.
The High Court on Sunday afternoon rejected a petition filed by the Likud to prevent the publication of Yinon’s ruling on whether Edelstein can prevent the beginning of immunity proceedings against Netanyahu.
The petition requested Yinon’s ruling be prevented because of an earlier appeal against him alleging a conflict of interests. Yinon is married to attorney Amit Merari, who is one of 25 lawyers who participated in the state prosecution’s ruling on Netanyahu’s cases.
“[Yinon’s] lack of restraint increases concern about conflict of interest and harms the public’s trust in the Knesset and its legal procedures,” a Likud spokesperson said on Sunday.