Yinon issues opinion that Edelstein cannot prevent establishment of Knesset committees to weigh PM’s immunity bid; Edelstein warns convening committees so close to elections ‘grave mistake’
AFP, Ynet – www.ynetnews.com
Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon gave clearance on Sunday to debate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for parliamentary immunity, but Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein may yet stand in the way.
Netanyahu was charged in November with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases and his request for parliamentary immunity has been expected to delay his court appearance until after the March 2 elections. The Likud leader denies the allegations.
The ruling Likud party turned to the High Court of Justice twice on Sunday, requesting injunctions to block the legal adviser from issuing his opinion, but were rejected on both occasions.
The prime minister’s opponents have sought to kick-start the process and deny him immunity before the upcoming elections by getting approval to form the necessary parliamentary committees.
Yinon on Sunday issued his opinion that Edelstein – a member of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party – cannot prevent the establishment of such committees. The legal adviser had come under fire from the prime minister, alleging Yinon is not impartial.
Netanyahu has claimed the same of State Attorney Shai Nitzan and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who the incumbent had accused of indicting him for trumped-up charges.
Yinon concluded that the speaker of the Knesset cannot prevent the two committees from being convened, according to a parliamentary statement.
Edelstein had sought to block the formation of the committees and requested a legal opinion on whether he had the authority to do so.
Edelstein on Sunday rejected Yinon’s advice, warning that convening the committees would be a “grave mistake.”
“We are just weeks ahead of elections, everybody knows that at such a time, the house committee would become a circus,” Edelstein said at a press conference.
It remains unclear whether lawmakers could forge ahead and form the parliamentary committees without his approval.
“I disagree with the Knesset legal adviser’s opinion,” the speaker said. “As far as it depends on me, I will not lend a hand in turning the committee to a place of cheap election propaganda.”
The legal opinion followed a request to launch the process by parties representing 65 lawmakers – a majority in the 120-strong Knesset – in favor of denying Netanyahu immunity.
The centrist Blue & White alliance, which holds 33 seats, proceeded Sunday with a bid to force the issue.
Under Israeli law, a sitting prime minister is only required to step down once convicted of an offense and after all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.
Likud and Blue & White were deadlocked in April and September elections, prompting a third national poll within a year.