Knesset Legal Advisor Eyal Yinon issued on Sunday evening a legal opinion stating that Speaker of the Knesset MK Yuli Edelstein cannot prevent the formation of a Knesset House Committee to rule on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for parliamentary immunity.
Opposition parties led by Blue and white have been seeking to form a Committee to quickly discuss a reject Netanyahu’s request for parliamentary immunity with the understanding that they have a majority to do so with the current Knesset configuration.
Yinon’s ruling was issued after the High Court earlier in the day rejected a petition filed by Netanyahu’s Likud party to prevent its publication. Likud’s petition to the High Court requested that Yinon’s ruling be prevented because of an earlier appeal against him alleging a conflict of interests.
Yinon is married to attorney Anat Merari, who participated in the state prosecution’s ruling on Netanyahu’s cases.
Yinon argued that despite the Speaker’s veto power during a provisional government, he may not prevent the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee from convening to vote on the formation of permanent Knesset committees, including the House Committee.
“The decision is in the hands of the MKs and they are able, if they see it fit, to form the House Committee,” Yinon wrote in the ruling.
Shortly after Yinon published his opinion, Edelstein held a press conference and charged that he has ” been the victim of an aggressive campaign to politicize my role. Those who accused me of not being a statesman haven’t served long enough to know what statesmanship is.”
In many cases, Edelstein said, the comments against him “sounded like direct quotes from mafia movies – ‘If you won’t cooperate with us, we’ll dismiss you. If you won’t accept our proposal, there will be consequences.’”
“To those people from Blue and White and other parliamentary groups, who have seen to many movies, I’ll respond with an immortal quote from one of these movies: ‘When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk,’” he stated.
Edelstein further said that last month, “the Arrangements Committee determined that it may be convened only with the Speaker’s authorization after he has received an opinion from the Knesset’s legal advisor. In its decision, the committee did not limit the areas of my authority. I remind you that the coalition does not have a majority in the Arrangements Committee.”
Edelstein argued that convening the House Committee at this time would be a “grave mistake,” adding that “such an important procedure, a sort of judicial [procedure], must not become a stage for improper election propaganda.”
“We are a few weeks from the elections. Everyone knows that during this time the House Committee will become a jungle that will dishonor the legislature,” said Edelstein. “I can assure you that if we’ll place reality show cameras there, the ratings will be sky high.”
“What I cannot guarantee is a fair and worthy process. Regardless of the identity of the person who requested immunity, he deserves a fair procedure. We, the citizens of Israel, deserve a fair procedure,” he concluded.
Political parties opposing Netanyahu hope to quickly discuss and reject Netanyahu’s request for parliamentary immunity and push him toward a trial on his three corruption cases ahead of the March elections.
Polls show that Netanyahu’s indictments have little effect on how people are choosing to vote.