Justice Minister Amir Ohana Saturday insisted that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein should not call a plenary vote to set up a committee that would look into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for parliamentary immunity from his corruption charges – the panel that, according to Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon, could be convened ahead of the 2 March vote.
“Edelstein said something interesting: ‘I don’t accept the legal opinion of the [Knesset] legal adviser'. And now I expect him to stand by his words", Ohana told Channel 12 news Saturday, implying that if Edelstein is not inclined to call the plenum, he should not do so.
“In a democracy, there is a public at the head of which is the Knesset speaker and he is the chosen official who decides if deliberations will take place or not", he said.
The justice minister also brought up Likud’s claim that Yinon shouldn’t have been allowed to advise anything in light of a “serious conflict of interest”: the lawyer’s wife, Amit Merari, is part of the team that prosecuted the prime minister over purported corruption. In response, Yinon noted that his professional legal opinion has nothing to do with the lawsuits against Netanyahu or proceedings to be held in the Knesset.
Knesset speaker Edelstein is meanwhile between a rock and a hard place, as he has of late been under pressure from both Netanyahu, whose allies are trying to block the committee vote, and the government head’s political rivals.
The other day, Blue and White Party member Avi Nissenkorn called on Yinon to exert influence over Edelstein’s failure to act on the Knesset’s call to review Netanyahu’s immunity request on his three criminal cases. The opposition party even reportedly threatened to show Edelstein the door if he fails to set up a parliamentary gathering early next week.
Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid told Channel 13 news that he was sure Edelstein would do the “right thing” and call a plenum vote.
“I don’t want to sit here and threaten the Knesset speaker", he stated.
Yinon earlier stated that Edelstein does not have the right to prevent the Knesset from forming the House Committee, which members voted for last Monday 16 to 5. However, a vote on the committee must also be held in the Knesset plenary session, with all 120 MKs taking part. A majority have already thrown their weight behind the committee.
Meanwhile, the prime minister and his supporters have insisted that the House Committee should not be established due to the Israeli government undergoing a transition period and looming elections that may prevent MKs from properly scrutinising the immunity request.
No open trial proceedings may occur, unless the latter are voted on. The prime minister’s legal woes consist of three criminal cases - fraud, breach of trust, and taking bribes - which, he fears, will prevent him from running in the third national vote in a year this March.