Mayhem took over the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee Sunday as right-wing lawmakers walked out of a discussion on when the parliament would be able to consider a potential request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for immunity from prosecution in three corruption cases.
Netanyahu has not yet announced whether he intends to seek immunity from prosecution, but is widely expected to do so.
On Friday Channel 12 reported that Netanyahu is set to ask the Knesset later this week for immunity. Netanyahu has until December 21 to do so — 30 days after the charges against him were announced by prosecutors.
Because of the political deadlock, however, the immunity issue may not be discussed by the Knesset for months, delaying the formal filing of the charges against Netanyahu. The Knesset House Committee, which weighs immunity requests, has been nonfunctional amid the political impasse resulting from two consecutive inconclusive elections.
The heated debate Sunday surrounded the question of whether a House Committee can be formed during a transitional government, and which body will be deciding whether that committee is formed before the March elections.
— ערוץ כנסת (@KnessetT) September 9, 2019
The Blue and White party is demanding that the Arrangements Committee, headed by its member Avi Nissenkorn, decide whether a House Committee will be created. But Netanyahu’s party, Likud, has furiously pushed for the decision to be made by a new Agreements Committee jointly headed by Nissenkorn and Likud MK Miki Zohar — meaning that either of them could veto the formation of a House Committee.
The discussion quickly became heated, with Nissenkorn saying: “I don’t know if Netanyahu will file a request for immunity, but we won’t leave the cat to guard the cream. The body qualified to determine whether a House Committee will be formed is the Arrangements Committee, which represents the makeup of the Knesset. I will not agree to a situation in which we can’t form a House Committee if needed.”
Zohar accused Nissenkorn of “shameful conduct,” with the discussion descending into a shouting match. He and most members of the right-wing parties supporting Netanyahu walked out of the discussion in protest.
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) December 15, 2019
Eyal Yinon, the Knesset’s top legal adviser, ruled last week that Netanyahu’s indictment must be delayed until the House Committee decides on whether to extend the prime minister immunity from prosecution. He said the committee could be formed if the majority of the Knesset supports the move in a vote. However, Avigdor Liberman, whose Yisrael Beytenu holds the balance of power in the parliament, has said he will vote against. Blue and White said it is trying to convince him to support it.
A Knesset House Committee is generally formed after the creation of a new government, which in the current circumstances will be sometime after March 2 elections.
Netanyahu is charged with fraud and breach of trust in three cases, as well as bribery in one of them. He denies wrongdoing and has accused police and state prosecutors of an “attempted coup” against him.