Israeli PM Netanyahu May Escape Prosecution for Corruption

Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu at the Community Reception Programme, in Tel Aviv, Israel on July 05, 2017 (file photo)
Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu at the Community Reception Programme, in Tel Aviv, Israel on July 05, 2017 (file photo)

While the Israeli parliament – the Knesset – has been dissolved before the upcoming election, Netanyahu’s trial cannot begin when his immunity request is pending.

By Rakesh Raman

The Israeli Prime Minister (PM) Benjamin Netanyahu – who is facing multiple corruption charges – has appealed for parliamentary immunity from prosecution. As his appeal is likely to be acceded, Netanyahu may evade trial until Israeli general election scheduled for March.

Earlier, in November 2019, Netanyahu was charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases. It is the first time in Israel’s history that a sitting PM has been indicted in criminal cases including corruption and fraud.

Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who was appointed by Netanyahu, announced that the decision to indict Netanyahu was inevitable and it is not a matter of politics.

The indictment came after over three years of investigations while Netanyahu claims that it is part of an “attempted coup” to overthrow him. Despite indictment, Netanyahu has refused to step down.

In Israel, a PM is not required to resign on indictment while other ministers and government officials are supposed to relinquish their positions when they are charged with a crime.

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In a similar case, it is alleged that India’s PM Narendra Modi is also involved in multiple corruption cases including the $4-billion Rafale scandal. However, the Supreme Court of India – which works under the control of the government – has refused to order investigations.

Attacking the judiciary, Netanyahu has argued that the investigations against him were not fair. In response, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, Esther Hayut, has warned that Netanyahu’s attacks on the judicial system pose a danger to the functioning of the country’s democracy.

In order to gain immunity, Netanyahu would need the support of more than half of MPs in the 120-member parliament. He appealed for immunity on Wednesday (January 1, 2020) in a televised speech just a few hours before the deadline for an application.

While the Israeli parliament – the Knesset – has been dissolved before the upcoming election, Netanyahu’s trial cannot begin when his immunity request is pending.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and the centrist Blue and White political group could not form the government for want of majority in the previous elections held in April and September 2019.

Like President Donald Trump who was impeached in December 2019, Netanyahu also claims that the charges against him are politically motivated and it is a “witch-hunt” a phrase often used by Trump for the investigations into his own wrongdoings.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society. He also creates and publishes a number of digital publications on different subjects.

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Rakesh Raman