Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz has told Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein that if he doesn’t allow Israeli politicians to vote to block an immunity deal for Benjamin Netanyahu in the next week then Edelstein will be replaced.
Playing parliamentary hardball for the first time, Gantz, who jointly leads the Blue and White party with Yair Lapid, reportedly issued the ultimatum to Edelstein on Wednesday, according to several Israeli newspapers, including Maariv.
Netanyahu, who remains prime minister at least until the next election on 2 March, is trying to engineer a new law giving him immunity from prosecution. Late last year he was indicted on corruption charges and faces an imminent trial.
Gantz and his parliamentary allies say 65 Knesset Members support the move to block Netanyahu from shielding himself from the law, but Edelstein has stymied recent efforts to bring it to a vote. Gantz has now threatened to replace him.
A respected former IDF chief of staff, Gantz has said the Knesset risks becoming a “refuge for criminals” if it allows politicians to vote to grant themselves legal immunity, arguing instead that the law must apply to all.
“Netanyahu has requested immunity, and we will use all parliamentary means and tools that are available to us to deliberate on his request,” he said on Wednesday. “I will not let anyone harm the democratic process and prevent such a hearing. Decisions on this must be made by tomorrow. We will not allow anyone to stall.”
Meanwhile, Gantz has also fired a warning shot across the bows of Donald Trump’s White House, saying the United States should not release its long-awaited plan for Israeli-Palestinian talks before the election “because that would be an outright intervention in the State of Israel’s election process”.