An influential Likud lawmaker، who has butted heads with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the past، on Thursday slammed the party’s plan to pass a special law that would grant the premier immunity from prosecution while in office، the Times of Israel said.
“This legislation offers zero benefit and causes maximum damage،” warned MK Gideon Sa’ar in an interview with Channel 12 news، amid reports that the prime minister has been advancing just such a bill and briefing Likud’s lawmakers on how to sell it to the public. Netanyahu faces indictment in the coming months، pending a hearing before Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit، in three corruption investigations. While Sa’ar wouldn’t commit to how he would vote on such an immunity bill، he noted that “we told the public [during the recent election campaign] that we weren’t going to do this. I think a law like this will hurt Likud and won’t help the prime minister.” Netanyahu said on March 24، at the height of the election campaign، that an immunity law was “out of the question،” and insisted he had buried previous initiatives by right-wing MKs to advance such a bill.
Netanyahu may not need new legislation to try to protect himself، a fact that Sa’ar noted during several times during his interview. According to the existing law، Knesset members can be granted immunity if a majority of lawmakers are convinced the defendant has been treated unfairly and the charges are based on discrimination or were filed in bad faith.
“The Knesset can give him immunity if it is persuaded that he is the victim of a vendetta — as [Netanyahu] believes is the case،” legal scholar Mordechai Kremnitzer told The Times of Israel late last year.
Nonetheless، were the Knesset to grant Netanyahu immunity from prosecution، the move would doubtless lead to petitions to Israel’s Supreme Court. Netanyahu has also been reportedly considering legislation to limit the court’s powers to intervene in such matters.
Despite blasting the immunity law on Thursday، Sa’ar defended Netanyahu’s right to serve as prime minister while under indictment.
Israeli law allows a prime minister to remain in office until he or she is convicted by a court of a crime classified as bearing moral turpitude، and only when all appeals have been exhausted.