Israel, Netanyahu seeks immunity to escape trials and run in elections

With a vote by Parliament, the interim premier will try to escape trials for three different court cases.  A majority of 61 votes in the Knesset out of a total of 120 will be required. Harsh criticism from the opposition, which announces a battle to deny immunity.  Fractures and divisions remain in the country.



Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been in office for a decade, wants to turn to Parliament and seek immunity to escape trials and charges in three court cases - for corruption, fraud and abuse of office.  For the interim premier, it is the last card he can play to ensure political survival, in the context of a divided nation over his role and in a fragmented institutional landscape, so much so that in three different elections he has not expressed a majority in the Knesset.

Netanyahu, who has always rejected all charges and attacked the judiciary, would need more than half of the seats in Parliament (61 out of a total of 120) to obtain immunity.  However, it is highly probable that the vote will be held with the new Chamber, following the March 2 elections.

The move by the Likud leader, recently confirmed at the head of his party with 72% of the votes, would therefore allow him to take time and delay the start of the trial by months;  in this way he could present himself [once again] as a strong leader capable of leading the country in the face of external threats at the next political elections in March.

In a televised speech, Netanyahu stressed that the immunity law is necessary to "protect people's representatives from specious investigations, from political indictments" whose only goal is to "go against the will of the people".  He then once agian accused the judiciary of carrying out a "witch hunt"; the judges of "selective application" of the law, "continuous and tendentious leaks" and "collective brainwashing to create a sort of court to  field".

In the event of it being granted, immunity would still be temporary.  Netanyahu closed his speech by stating that at the end he intends to appear in court "to rip apart" all the accusations against him.

The immediate response of the main challenger to the interim premier, the leader of the "Blue White" centrist coalition Benny Gantz, who assured him that he wanted to do everything to ensure that the Knesset [the Israeli Parliament] does not grant immunity.  Similar is the position of Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the nationalist party Israel Beitenu.

Even the current political crisis, with the country voting for the third time in a year because no political leader, not even Netanyahu, is able to secure a majority in the Knesset, is closely linked to the divisive figure of the premier.  And from what emerges from the latest polls, released in these days two months after the ballot box, the situation does not seem to have changed: neither the Likud right wing nor the center block led by Gantz would in fact be able to easily form a government block  in Parliament.