1. Above the law: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is telling Likud associates that he is going to go all out for a law that will give him immunity from prosecution, the Israel Hayom tabloid reports.
- According to the report, Netanyahu is telling associates that rather than harm democracy, such a measure would protect democracy, since the voters elected him — but he can’t very well run the country while also defending himself in court.
- “It will simply prevent an embarrassing situation for Israel in which the prime minister goes to court in the morning and runs the country in the evening,” reporter Mati Tuchfeld writes. (To even point out the insanity of such a defense seems like overkill.)
- According to the report, the law would still allow for Netanyahu or whoever to be prosecuted once out of office, though it’s not clear if it would set a term limit.
- The tabloid is seen as closely linked to Netanyahu, which lends this report some extra credibility and it may be meant to telegraph to supporters the path ahead. Much of the report’s Nixonian ranting against Netanyahu’s enemies (the courts, leftists, the media) reads as if it were composed by the premier himself.
- “They just want him to go down. They don’t care that the public elected him by a huge majority to be prime minister. They want him to quit. Now. And they say all this in the name of democracy and protecting democracy. If democracy interested them, they would respect the will of the people,” the report reads.
2. Selling immunity: The report follows one by Channel 12 on Wednesday night that reported that Netanyahu’s associates would be “changing gears” and going full bore for immunity.
- According to the report, Netanyahu and his people are briefing Likud members on the talking points to sell the idea to the public (which are largely reflected in the Israel Hayom piece): “The Israeli people deserve a full time prime minister,” they say of Netanyahu, who until recently also served as defense minister, foreign minister, health minister and absorption minister. “The people knew my situation and chose me.”
- Anti-Netanyahu protest leader Eldad Yaniv notes on Twitter that really only half the people elected him. “The other half think exactly the opposite … Netanyahu cannot be prime minister when half the people refuse to work with him.”
3. No get out of jail card: Haaretz points out in its report the fact that Netanyahu swore up and down not to pursue such a law during the campaign season. “In interviews on Channel 12, Channel 20 and Keshet, he said among other things that he wasn’t getting involved with it and he did not intend to change the current law.”
- More than a few people are pointing out that what that means is that Netanyahu was elected under false pretenses.
- “Stop lying,” tweets Blue and White also-ran Yair Lapid. “The people elected you when you said you would prove yourself innocent, not that you would get yourself a get out of jail free card.”
- Addressing Netanyahu, Labor No. 3 Itzik Shmuli says “This is Israel, not Turkey,”
- “The majority’s decision doesn’t trample the rule of law and won’t grant you early release, get used to it,” he says.
4. Third world: The most withering criticism, though, comes from former Supreme Court justice Elyakim Rubinstein, no leftist he, who warns that an immunity bill will turn Israel “into a third world country.”
- “This is not something that we can ethically allow — from the point of view of a normal country — to stand. This is not what immunity is for. Everyone needs to be equal under the law,” he says.
5. 60 is the new 65: Netanyahu keeps on saying that he was elected, and while he was seen having the smoothest path toward building a coalition, Yedioth Ahronoth reports that he is now openly entertaining the idea of building a coalition of 60.
- That is after Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman put his foot down in coalition negotiations, meaning Netanyahu may have to build what Yedioth calls a “temporary government” without him.
- While such a coalition could technically stand, it will have a hard time passing laws or effectively ruling. And it will mean Liberman would have to abstain or vote with the coalition on May 28 when the Knesset needs to vote on creating the government.
- “Likud is estimating that if it gets to that last-ditch option, Liberman will not oppose [the government] so he won’t be blamed for the fall of a right-wing government,” the paper reports.
- But the plan may have a hitch named Moshe Kahlon. Haaretz reports that Kahlon told associates that he won’t serve as finance minister in a coalition of 60.
- “Kahlon reportedly said such a government would be vulnerable to extortion, a difficult position particularly for the cabinet member tasked with protecting the state coffers against the demands of the parties in the governing coalition,” the paper reports.
- It notes that Liberman and Kahlon, while denying working together to squeeze Netanyahu, “complement each other and are making the prime minister’s task more difficult.”
6. Call from the other side: At the same time, Blue and White’s Lapid has come out in the open with a plea for Liberman to wait a while and get a better deal on pension reform, one of his five demands.
- “If he waits a few months he’ll get 55 votes from us assured to raise pensions to the level he promised. Together we’ll have 61 votes. A real majority,” he tells Kan radio.
- Channel 12 news speculates that the comment means Lapid may be “trying to build an alternative government.”
- The only problem is that 55 plus Yisrael Beytenu’s five votes only equals 60.
- Reporter Amit Segal calls him out on Twitter for the fuzzy math, to which he replies “and guess who my 61st vote is.”
7. Tamer tussle: Large numbers of Palestinians protesting on the Gaza border did not add up to much violence, with Wednesday’s Nakba Day events passing mostly uneventfully.
- ToI’s Judah Ari Gross notes that the protests were “substantially tamer” than last year’s massive riots, though this year soldiers had to deal with both demonstrators and the wind.
- “The air along the border stung with tear gas throughout the afternoon, as winds blew the caustic vapors used by the IDF back into Israel, forcing the very soldiers firing the canisters to wear gas masks and other gear to protect against them,” he writes.
- Sixty-five Palestinians were injured during the riots, and nobody was killed, which Yedioth credits to both a system of berms along the border helping protect soldiers, and to more experienced and professional officers and better snipers, who underwent special training.
- Gadi Eisenkot, the army chief who oversaw last year’s bloody clashes on the Gaza border, used his first public appearance since leaving the army to warn of the dangers of loss of security coordination with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Haaretz reports.
- Eisenkot told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where he now based, that “without coordination, there will be clashes every day, in several places. It’s very important.”
8. Like a Material Girl: Thursday brings the second semifinal for the Eurovision Song Contest, ahead of Saturday’s final.
- Israeli MC Assi Azar tells Army Radio that at rehearsal sessions the Shalva Band, which almost became Israel’s entry and is instead slated to perform as a non-competing side act, “is received by the crowd like Madonna.”
- Those who are hoping for the real McCoy will be happy to know that the pop diva finally reached a deal with the European Broadcasting Union to perform at the Saturday final.
- “The crisis is over,” crows Walla news, reporting that the deal was only signed after the show organizers told Madonna she could not do a rehearsal without a signed agreement.
- Danny Ben Naim, who was involved in the negotiations, tells Army Radio that the show will cost about $1.5 million and Madonna will sing “Like a Prayer.”