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Uncertainty surrounds Netanyahu immunity request 

Israelis demonstrate against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the wake of police recommendations to indict corruption inTel Aviv on 16 February 2018 [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]
Israelis demonstrate against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on 16 February 2018 [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]

A request filed by Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, asking the Knesset to grant him immunity from prosecution in the three criminal cases against him is shrouded with uncertainty, due to insufficient time ahead of the upcoming elections scheduled for 2 March.

Israeli media reports have been contradictory regarding Knesset speaker, Yuli Edelstein’s decision to call for a plenary vote on forming a Knesset House Committee, to debate Netanyahu’s immunity request.

Israel’s Channel 13 expected Edelstein to call, within the upcoming week, to vote on the committee’s formation, while Channel 12 believe that Edelstein will delay the session for at least two weeks.

Edelstein is facing pressure from his Likud party, as well as other right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties, supporting Netanyahu to block the plenary vote until after the upcoming elections.

READ: Netanyahu was unusually excited about a video call with an Arab nobody

According to Channel 13, Edelstein also does not want to wait until the Supreme Court forces him to order the plenary vote, and therefore it is likely for the special session to occur this Monday or Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Israeli Channel 12 suggested that the Knesset plenary session could be postponed until after the ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, on January 22 and 23.

Netanyahu’s political opposition, led by Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, threatened to elect a new Knesset speaker if Edelstein doesn’t allow Israeli politicians to vote to block an immunity deal for Netanyahu within the next week.

Earlier on Monday, members of the Knesset Arrangements Committee voted 16 to 5, in favour of establishing a House Committee to deliberate Netanyahu’s request for immunity.  The committee will comprise 30 members, from all political parties based on their representation in the Knesset, Israeli media reported.

If Netanyahu’s immunity request is rejected before the 2 March elections, he could face trial immediately. However, if the committee approves the request, the immunity granted will only last for the term of the Knesset that approved it, meaning until the 2 March election.

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