Netanyahu Says Immunity From Prosecution ‘A Cornerstone of Democracy’

Immunity from prosecution is a cornerstone of democracy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was indicted in three corruption cases, said Sunday. Netanyahu added that he would make a decision on whether he would ask the Knesset for immunity within two days. 

"Immunity isn't against democracy; immunity is a cornerstone of democracy," the prime minister told the audience at a Hanukkah event.

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Also Sunday, Netanyahu told the High Court of Justice that it was "unthinkable" for the attorney general to decide "who can run the country cand who can't." In a letter sent ahead of a possible decision on the matter, Netanyahu wrote that in a democracy, "those who decide who leads the people are the people, and no one else."

Netanyahu said on Saturday that should he request immunity, he would "not be avoiding trial." 

In November, Israel faced a first-of-its-kind situation in the country's history when an indictment was filed against Netanyahu. He has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a favorable news coverage for telecommunications benefits case (Case 4000), as well as fraud and breach of trust in cases pertaining to lavish gifts for political favors and favorable coverage in return for legislation (Cases 1000 and 2000, respectively). The indictment alleges that Netanyahu “placed himself in a conflict of interests between his public roles and his private affairs.”

A special Knesset committee, which according to Israeli law would have to discuss a request for immunity, has not been appointed since Israel held the April election. A new committee is not expected to be assembled until after the next election on March 2, so if Netanyahu does file a request to be granted immunity a discussion about it will likely be postponed by several months, at the very least.

If a new government is not formed after the March election, the discussion on Netanyahu's immunity could potentially be further postponed. It is not possible to file an official indictment of Netanyahu to the court before a committee discusses his request.