Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu mulls forgoing immunity in last-minute bid to avert elections

Announcement comes after Blue and White head Gantz says PM triggered year-long political crisis due to his desire for parliamentary immunity for criminal charges he is now facing, calls on veteran leader to drop bid and join unity government

Moran Azulay |
Updated: 12.11.19 , 17:10
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was Wednesday considering forgoing a request for parliamentary immunity in an effort to push the rival Blue and White party into unity government talks before a midnight deadline forces a third round of elections in a 12-month period.
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  • Netanyahu was last month indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
    Benjamin Netanyahu Benjamin Netanyahu
    Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
    However, there was a slim possibility that this move would halt the expected dissolution of the Knesset before the midnight deadline.
    Blue and White have made clear they would not be part of a Netanyahu-led government as long as the prime minister was under criminal indictment.
    Likud, meanwhile, claimed Wednesday that, "Blue and White was on a rampage of spin after foiling every possible effort for a national unity coalition and having failed to form a narrow government with support from Arab MKs.
    "If Blue and White agrees to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and West Bank settlements, a government can be agreed upon and elections avoided," Likud officials said.
    Israel's political leaders blamed one another on Wednesday for the country's political morass as the country braced for a third round of elections in less than 12 months.
    Blue and White leader Benny Gantz earlier Wednesday accused Netanyahu of triggering the political crisis due to his desire for parliamentary immunity for the criminal charges.
    "The fight for [Netanyahu's] immunity will have been a constant throughout all three election campaigns," Gantz said.
    Under Israeli law, members of parliament do not have automatic immunity from prosecution but can seek it through the Knesset House Committee.
    בני גנץבני גנץ
    Benny Gantz
    (Photo: AFP)
    Netanyahu has been accused of trying to secure a Knesset majority and then pack the committee with allies who would approve his request for immunity.
    Gantz on Tuesday called on the prime minister to forgo his immunity so that a government could be formed before the Wednesday midnight deadline.
    "Netanyahu, you promised on the eve of the last elections, that you would not hide behind parliamentary immunity and would defend yourself in court," he said.
    He added that the prime minister had every right to defend himself "but cannot turn the Knesset into a refuge."
    Following the September elections, both Netanyahu and Gantz failed during their officially mandated time to form a governing coalition on their own. Then, in a final three-week window, they could not join forces to avoid another vote.
    Both sides said they were working until the last minute to find some way out of the deadlock. However, a breakthrough seemed highly unlikely.
    Meanwhile, the Knesset was voting Wednesday on a fast-tracked piece of legislation that would allow lawmakers to dissolve parliament and hold elections on March 2, 2020.
    If the bill isn't passed by midnight, new elections would automatically be set for March 10.

    First published: 16:38 , 12.11.19
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