Likud rival opposes Netanyahu immunity law

Senior Likud MK Gideon Saar said last night that he opposes a new law to grant Benjamin Netanyahu immunity from criminal prosecution while still in office.

The proposed law would allow Netanyahu to avoid a criminal trial whilst he remains prime minister. Saar told Channel 12 news last night: “Ad hominem legislation could undermine the public’s confidence. This is of zero benefit and maximum damage. Netanyahu was given bad advice. The bill will not benefit the prime minister, and I will do everything so that this doesn’t happen. 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.” However, Saar did not explicitly say he would vote against the bill: “When the issue is put to a vote, the citizens of Israel will know how I am going to vote.” Saar did however defend Netanyahu’s right to serve as prime minister until the legal process is complete.

Saar, a long-time rival of Netanyahu and is considered a potential future leader of the party, is the first Likud politician to break ranks and speak out against the proposed immunity law. Yair Lapid, No. 2 in the Blue and White party, praised Saar for having “political courage” to go against Netanyahu. Lapid added: “I support Saar and call on all coalition Knesset members to join Gideon, the immunity law, will not just damage Likud, it will damage the State of Israel.”

Responding to Saar’s remark, a Likud source said: “It is for good reason that the left-wing media is constantly embracing Gideon Saar, because he doesn’t miss an opportunity to undermine Netanyahu and attempt to topple him.”

In February, the Attorney General announced his intention to indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing, for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Under current law any member of Knesset can obtain immunity by a majority vote in the Knesset House Committee and then in the Knesset plenum. The proposed legislation would revert to the law prior to 2005 in which MKs were automatically granted immunity from prosecution.