Netanyahu's immunity hearings promise entertainment for public - analysis

The prime minister is about to go to trial in the court of public opinion.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting, January 2020. (photo credit: ALEX KOLOMOISKY / POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting, January 2020.
(photo credit: ALEX KOLOMOISKY / POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is about to go on trial.
No, not in a real courtroom. That is still several months away and won’t begin before the March 2 election.
Netanyahu will be tried first in the Knesset House Committee, which already has a majority to deny his request for immunity from prosecution in his criminal cases before the meetings have even begun.
Much like US President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings, the immunity hearings that will happen in the House Committee will be a spectacle for the cameras delivering the show to the voters watching back home.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein compared it to a jungle or a reality show. A World Wrestling Entertainment fight would also be a fitting comparison, especially if Blue and White is allowed to invite witnesses to testify against Netanyahu.
Blue and White overcame a significant legal hurdle in Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon’s ruling on Sunday. The outgoing Knesset has barely made any decisions at all during its very short tenure. Now at least, it will get a chance to make a big one.
The Likud will continue its legal fight, ironically taking advantage of the Supreme Court and legal establishment the party will be campaigning against.
Likud faction chairman Miki Zohar pointed out that Yinon only ruled that the House Committee could be convened, not that it can deal with immunity yet. He said that would require a separate ruling, which could not be given by Yinon because he ruled out dealing directly with immunity, due to his wife, Amit Merari, working on the prosecution team that indicted Netanyahu.
Every step of the way, the Likud will be there to petition the Supreme Court and block the legal procedures from moving forward. Likud and Blue and White will constantly be facing off in court in the weeks ahead, dealing with technical minutiae that do not interest anyone.
Edelstein hinted during Sunday’s press conference that he could still torpedo a vote in the Knesset plenum despite Yinon’s ruling. That will also likely go to court.
Then there is the Haim Katz factor. The former welfare minister and current MK also asked for immunity but Yinon ruled his case could not be voted on because it was too close to an election.
That means Blue and White must move fast or Yinon could end up forcing deliberations on Netanyahu to stop before a vote takes place. While Blue and White would love to stretch the immunity hearings as close as possible to the March 2 election, that is apparently not legally possible.
Once the vote takes place to reject Netanyahu’s immunity request, his indictments may be formally filed to the Jerusalem District Court. His real trial will begin a few months later.
But chances are it will be much more calm and reserved than the trial Netanyahu will first have to endure in the Knesset.