Netanyahu's cases now in Edelstein's hands

Knesset legal adviser okays forming committee to discuss immunity.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit (R) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit (R)
Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon ruled on Sunday that the Knesset House Committee may be formed to vote on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for parliamentary immunity from prosecution in his three criminal cases.
In his ruling, Yinon criticized the timing for the move during an election. But he said that the legislators of the Immunity Law wrote that immunity requests must be dealt with as soon as possible, so the House Committee could be established, even though it is normally only formed after a government is sworn in.
Yinon’s ruling left Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein as the only hurdle to prevent the formation of the House Committee, where the majority favors rejecting Netanyahu’s immunity request. If Edelstein allows the vote, Netanyahu’s indictment could be formally issued at the Jerusalem District Court this week, and his trial could begin soon.
Edelstein is under pressure from the Likud to prevent the House Committee from being formed, and from the Blue and White Party to allow it. Blue and White warned Edelstein not to “shame the holy of holies of Israeli democracy” and said he heads the Knesset, not the Likud campaign. Likud officials have warned that Edelstein’s hopes for becoming president could be dashed if he enables prosecuting Netanyahu.
Likud faction chairman MK Miki Zohar called Yinon’s ruling “a delusional decision that serves the Left and allows it to play political games.”
Edelstein, Yinon and Knesset Arrangements Committee head Avi Nissenkorn held a short meeting on Sunday on the immunity issue. After the meeting, Edelstein’s spokesman said the Knesset speaker required additional clarification from Yinon about what leeway and flexibility he has, to handle the issue before making a decision.
Nissenkorn presented Edelstein and Yinon letters from the heads of factions numbering 65 MKs in favor of forming Knesset committees that would reject Netanyahu’s immunity request and oversee the work of his caretaker government. Speaking at a legal conference in Haifa, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said no witnesses could testify at the House Committee hearing on immunity.
Mandelblit hit back at claims by Netanyahu made in his request for immunity, saying, “There is no basis to the claims of manufacturing [false] cases or of an overthrow of the government.”
According to Mandelblit, none of Netanyahu’s lawyers made any such claims during the pre-indictment hearings, and these arguments only came up after the prime minister did not like the final decision to indict.
The attorney-general recalled that even when he announced the final indictment against Netanyahu, he had simultaneously praised the prime minister’s talents, and noted that the law commanded following his directives as long as he remained the country’s leader.
As recently as last week, Mandelblit helped block the third attempt to get the High Court of Justice to oust Netanyahu as prime minister on the basis of the bribery indictment against him.
Mandelblit had swatted away the first two attempts, saying that Netanyahu obviously did not fit the definition of mentally incompetent of fulfilling his duties, and that forcing a transitional prime minister to resign was meaningless, because Netanyahu would just replace himself.
Regarding the third argument against Netanyahu, that he should be disqualified from forming a government, Mandelblit helped convince the High Court not to rule until post-election, since the issue was theoretical.
In addition, the attorney-general admitted that law enforcement is not perfect, especially in its hacking of Netanyahu’s advisers’ cellphones, which is an issue he is reviewing.
However, Mandelblit said there is a distinction between legitimate, substantive criticism of the state prosecution, and political vendettas to try to thwart the prosecution from enforcing the rule of law.