Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to ask the Knesset later this month for immunity from prosecution on graft charges, Channel 12 news reported Friday.
Netanyahu, who has been charged in a trio of corruption cases, has not yet announced whether he we will seek immunity from prosecution, but is widely expected to do so.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Monday re-presented Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein with the charge sheet against the prime minister, first issued on November 21, officially re-starting the 30-day countdown Netanyahu has to request parliamentary immunity.
Because of Israel’s 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 inconclusive elections. With third elections appearing likely, the committee could remain inactive for months to come.
Eyal Yinon, the Knesset’s top legal adviser, ruled Monday the indictment of Netanyahu must be delayed until the House Committee decides on whether to extend the premier immunity.
Netanyahu is charged with fraud and breach of trust in the 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.
The premier’s legal woes have come as he also contends with political troubles, having failed in consecutive attempts to form a government and now facing an internal challenge for leadership of the Likud party.
Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who also was unable to assemble a coalition, have both stressed their commitment to a unity government of their two parties after neither secured a majority with their respective allies in September’s Knesset elections.
Talks between them, however, have failed to result in a government and they have traded blame for the impasse, with the two vowing Friday to defeat each other in looming third elections.
One sticking point in coalition negotiations has been who would serve as prime minister first as part of a rotation agreement that would see the two switch off as premier.
According to Channel 12, Netanyahu offered Gantz a number of guarantees to ensure he would pass the baton at an agreed upon time, including requiring a minimum of 80 lawmakers to overturn the agreement rather than a bare majority, as well as a signature from all coalition partners binding them to the pact.
If no lawmaker manages to get the support of at least 61 members of the 120-strong Knesset by December 11, elections will be called for the third time in less than a year.
If elections are held they will most likely be on March 3, Yinon, the Knesset legal adviser, said Friday.
With a unity government looking unlikely, hopes for a narrow government have also faded.
Yisrael Beytenu party leader MK Avigdor Liberman declared Thursday that he will no longer agree to join any narrow government.
Liberman said he would not be part of a narrow government — either right or left — because “the combination of dramatic defense and economic decisions with a narrow government is likely to create a large rift and polarization in the public.”
Liberman campaigned on a unity government of his party, Likud, and Blue and White ahead of elections in September and has continued to push for such an arrangement amid the ongoing deadlock in coalition talks.
A number of recent polls have indicated that a third round of elections would result in continued gridlock, potentially further extending the political impasse well into next year.