Bennett backs immunity for Netanyahu

PM loses appeal against leaks from probes.

Naftali Bennet at coalition meeting, March 11, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Naftali Bennet at coalition meeting, March 11, 2018
Yamina Knesset candidate Naftali Bennett came out in favor of immunity from prosecution for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night, joining the leaders of the other right-wing parties that would make up a right-wing coalition should Netanyahu win the election.
Current polls indicate a blocking majority of more than 61 MKs who do not want Netanyahu to form the next government. But if Netanyahu succeeds in swaying seats to the Right, he would not only be able to build a right-wing coalition, he will also be able to pass legislation that could prevent his criminal cases from bringing him down.
“The State of Israel’s greatest need right now is stability,” Bennett told Channel 12’s Meet the Press program. “If there will be a stable government, something very extreme would have to happen for me to oppose immunity.”
Bennett’s declaration was a significant change from past statements when he and his ally, Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked, refused to say what they would do if Netanyahu was indicted. Following police recommendations to indict Netanyahu in February 2018, the then-education minister sharply attacked Netanyahu, accusing him of serving as a poor role model for the nation’s youth.
The reason for his change of heart, according to Bennett, was the need for stability after holding two snap elections. He said he does not want Israel to be a banana republic with elections every six months and that Netanyahu was not accused of rape or murder.
But Yamina officials said there were also political reasons for Bennett’s statement. Netanyahu has warned that Yamina could support Blue and White leader Benny Gantz to form a government instead of him. They said Bennett wanted to make it crystal clear that Yamina was firmly behind Netanyahu.
Besides his attacks on Yamina and on Gantz, Netanyahu focused his criticism over the weekend on Channel 12, which has aired embarrassing excerpts of testimony from witnesses in the criminal cases against him this week. Netanyahu called for a boycott of the channel.
Netanyahu filed a formal complaint against Channel 12 with the Central Elections Committee on Friday, asking the committee to bar transcripts from testimony against him from being broadcast.
Excerpts were aired of the testimony of state’s witness and former Communications Ministry director-general Shlomo Filber, which made it look like Netanyahu discouraged reforms that would have lowered the cost of using landline telephones to benefit Shaul Elovitch, who was the owner of Bezeq Group. The channel also aired leaks from the testimony of current Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan about his difficulties in advancing reforms in the same industry when he was communications minister.
Netanyahu included Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit in his complaints, because he alleges the leaks came from the State Prosecution and were “illegal leaks that are intended to impact the election.” In the complaint, Netanyahu asked the head of the committee, Supreme Court Judge Hanan Melcer, to prevent further leaks.
But the committee rejected Netanyahu’s request, saying it “did not find it correct to issue the requested injunction.”
In a post on Facebook Live on Friday, Netanyahu complained about the leaks and called Channel 12 “Soviet propaganda” and “Gantz TV.” Netanyahu gave an award for “fake news” to Channel 12 legal correspondent Guy Peleg.
Yediot Aharonot revealed on Friday that Peleg is traveling with a security guard after receiving threats.
In the Facebook Live post, Netanyahu said the poll in Israel Hayom that gave Blue and White a two-seat lead over his Likud indicated that there is a “real danger” to the continued rule of the Likud. The poll predicted 32 seats for Blue and White and 30 for Likud.