PM denies immunity bill in coalition agreements despite deriding detractors

Likely opposition parties plan joint protest against immunity bill.

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May 19, 2019 11:45
2 minute read.
PM denies immunity bill in coalition agreements despite deriding detractors

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are joined by Likud members in the singing of ‘Hatikvah’ after celebrating their victory on April 10. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

 
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A bill making the prime minister, and all other MKs, immune from criminal proceedings will not be part of coalition negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman said Friday.


Likud chief negotiator and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said that “contrary to the rumors and reports, the topic of immunity is not part of the coalition agreements that we are working on putting together.”
Netanyahu’s spokesman confirmed the statement soon after Levin made it.


No immunity bill has been presented to the new Knesset, but an October 2018 bill by Likud MK Miki Zohar sought to bring back the pre-2005 situation, wherein all MKs were automatically immune from prosecution unless the Knesset voted to remove that immunity.


Netanyahu’s office and Levin did not deny that Netanyahu and the Likud are promoting the immunity bill, and that leaving it out of the coalition agreement does not preclude the coalition from passing the law in the Knesset.


In addition, if a right-wing government is formed, there could be 61 votes in favor of such a bill, with Shas – whose leader Interior Minister Arye Deri also faces a likely indictment – UTJ – whose leader Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman is under investigation – Union of Right-Wing Parties (URP) and Yisrael Beytenu willing to vote in favor. Kulanu would not commit to voting for or against it on Saturday night.


Netanyahu seemingly denied that he would pursue such a bill in pre-election interviews, Likud sources said last week that it would be on the coalition’s agenda. This came after Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit recommended earlier this year that Netanyahu be indicted on three counts of fraud and breach of trust and one of bribery, pending a hearing set for September. In addition to Netanyahu, Litzman and Deri, Social Services Minister Haim Katz and MK David Bitan of Likud may face charges in other corruption cases.


The Likud seemingly confirmed the party’s support on Thursday. After longtime Netanyahu rival Gideon Sa’ar appeared on Channel 12 to express concern that the bill “does zero good and does maximum damage,” the top Likud sources accused him of “never missing an opportunity to undermine Netanyahu and try to bring him down.”


Sa’ar found an ally in his former aide and new MK Michal Shir, who did not go so far as to express opposition for the bill, but supported his choice to speak his mind, saying “the Likud is a democratic party, in which everyone is allowed to express his opinion without fear.”


The former minister also hinted in his interview that several other MKs in the Likud oppose the immunity bill. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan are likely opponents, since they expressed disapproval of the “French bill” – to exempt prime ministers from criminal proceedings – when it was proposed in the past.


Blue and White announced a demonstration in Tel Aviv next Saturday night titled “Defensive Shield for Democracy,” named after the IDF’s 2002 military operation against the Second Intifada.


“We will not let Netanyahu drag Israel into Turkish-style legislation in which the ruler is immune before the law,” the flier read.


No progress was made on coalition talks over the weekend. The deadline for Netanyahu to form a government is Tuesday, May 28.

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