Netanyahu warns top court against intervening in vote

Immunity request as early as Tuesday.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu has opposed the International Criminal Court’s investigation. (photo credit: REUTERS)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu has opposed the International Criminal Court’s investigation.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the Supreme Court on Monday night not to interfere in the process of deciding who will form the next government.
Netanyahu made the statement ahead of his hearing on Tuesday morning, in which the three Supreme Court judges with the most seniority have been asked to rule on whether Netanyahu could form a government, even though he has been indicted in three criminal cases.
“There are those who are trying to drag the Supreme Court into the political playing field in order to besmirch me and legally sabotage my ability to form a government,” Netanyahu said in a video clip he posted. “I cannot fathom that the Supreme Court of Israel would fall into this trap. In a democracy, it is the nation that decides who will lead it and no one else. That is how it always was, and that is how it will always be.”
Netanyahu released the 24-second clip on social media after first inviting the press to a longer address at a Jerusalem hotel – and then canceling the speech. Sources close to Netanyahu said he had intended to deliver a similar address as that which he released in the video, in an en effort to impact the proceedings in Tuesday’s hearing.
There was also speculation that Netanyahu would use the statement in the press to address the issue of requesting immunity from prosecution from the Knesset. Netanyahu has until Wednesday to request immunity, and he may make the formal request as early as Tuesday after telling Likud activists on Sunday that “immunity is a foundation stone of democracy.”
The prime minister’s spokesman denied a report that Netanyahu had already written Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein asking for immunity. When he does submit the letter, though, Netanyahu is expected to write that obtaining immunity would enable him to continue to function fully as prime minister, help the functioning of the Knesset and prevent his cases from singling him out unfairly.
Netanyahu met multiple times with his attorney Amit Haddad on Monday to prepare for both the hearing and the immunity request. The Supreme Court is not expected to rule immediately on Tuesday about whether Netanyahu can form a governing coalition, but it could decide quickly whether it has the legal right to deal with the issue and, if so, when.
Requesting immunity would put off Netanyahu’s trial, because there will be no Knesset house committee to vote on granting the immunity until the next government is formed. The only way a majority could be achieved in the current Knesset to deal with the immunity question is if Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman changes his mind on the issue. Liberman currently opposes granting Netanyahu immunity, as Likud wants, and forming a committee to deal with the issue, as Blue and White favors.
Blue and White faction chairman Avi Nissenkorn will convene the Knesset Arrangements Committee on Wednesday to debate whether it could form a temporary house committee to deal with immunity in case Liberman changes sides on the matter.
Reacting to Netanyahu’s announcement that he would deliver an address and then his cancellation, Blue and White tweeted mockingly that if he could not handle a declaration to the public, how could he run the country?
Labor-Gesher leader Amir Peretz went further, saying that instead of trying to escape prosecution himself, Netanyahu should be granting immunity to the middle class, young couples and senior citizens who are not able to make ends meet.
Netanyahu’s ally, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, issued a scathing attack on the Supreme Court on his Facebook page, comparing the three judges who will be convening in the hearing to the committee that vets candidates in Iran. He said the very fact that they were dealing with the issue was scandalous.
“The process being run by the legal establishment is disgustingly similar to the process in Iran,” Levin wrote. “There are three judges who think they are the gods of morality and that their wisdom surpasses that of the nation. They take authority that they do not have to decide who can run and who can not."