Prime Minister Netanyahu to officially ask for immunity on Wednesday
“I hope the prime minister will not request immunity, but if he does, we will deal with it then,” Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will formally request immunity from prosecution in his three criminal cases from Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Wednesday, the last day possible for him to make that request, Likud sources said on Tuesday.
Netanyahu ruled out taking steps seeking immunity in a live interview on Channel 12 ahead of the April election. But he is expected to reverse course by requesting the immunity, which is unlikely to be granted but could enable Netanyahu to postpone his trial, because there will be no Knesset House Committee to consider his immunity request until a government is formed.
The Knesset Arrangements Committee will meet on Thursday to consider appointing a temporary House Committee to deliberate on the request. But such a move will have no majority unless Yisrael Beytenu supports it. Blue and White officials said they had gotten positive messages from Yisrael Beytenu, which previously opposed forming the committee.
“I hope the prime minister will not request immunity, but if he does, we will deal with it then,” Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said at Tuesday’s conference of the business newspaper Calcalist.
Channel 13 reported that Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon will rule that a House Committee cannot be formed.
Meanwhile, a hearing was held before the High Court of Justice on Tuesday morning to discuss a petition asking that the court rule that Netanyahu, under indictment on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, cannot form the next government. The hearing ended with no immediate decision.
Although the High Court announced it would decide on the matter at a later point, the overall feel of the justices’ questions to the lawyers was that they would very much prefer to stay out of the issue.
Chief Justice Esther Hayut, Deputy Justice Hanan Melcer and Justice Uzi Vogelman conducted the hearing.
Around 70 hi-tech officials have requested that the court rule on Netanyahu’s eligibility to form a government before the upcoming March 2 election, mainly due to the charge of bribery he faces in Case 4000, also known as the “Bezeq-Walla Affair.”
During the hearing, lawyers for the petitioners said the High Court had set a clear precedent when it forced Arye Deri to resign as minister upon indictment for bribery 20 years ago, and the precedent demands that the court do the same in Netanyahu’s case.
All three justices hinted that making a ruling now is premature and will only become relevant should Netanyahu secure enough votes to form a government. At that point, his candidacy to do so must be presented to President Reuven Rivlin following the upcoming election in March.