On Sunday, the Blue and White party (Kahol Lavan) announced that it has the support of enough Knesset members to convene a House Committee to discuss Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for immunity. If Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein gives the green light to the formation of the committee, forces opposing Netanyahu, including Benny Gantz' Kahol Lavan, Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu, the Joint List and Democratic Camp could potentially reject Netanyahu's immunity bid and his trial would begin soon after.
Last week Netanyahu requested immunity from prosecution in his three criminal cases, including breach of trust, accepting bribes, and fraud, which the Israeli prime minister was indicted for by Israel’s attorney general on 21 November 2019.
Investigation & Indictment Against Netanyahu are Biased
While the Knesset speaker is about to rule on the fate of the immunity request, Israeli publicist and political analyst Avigdor Eskin argues that the investigation and the indictment against Netanyahu were biased from the start.
He refers to legal opinion by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and a number of high profile American lawyers who earlier called upon Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to drop charges against Netanyahu; denouncing them as "the weaponisation of criminal justice for political purposes".
According to the publicist, the Israeli prime minister remains a successful political heavyweight who deserves to receive immunity.
"The removal of Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani is perceived in Israel as the victory of Netanyahu, among other points", Eskin says. "His policy towards Iran is prevailing internationally. And his international experience is indispensable. Netanyahu is the best choice for secret talks to Arab leaders. He has improved the relations with the Arab world like no other Israeli leader. And his special relations both with President Trump and President Putin are vital for Israel now. He is leading Israel towards peace and prosperity".
Three Failed Attempts to Unseat the Israeli PM
Nelly Gutina, an Israeli author and political commentator echoes Eskin by saying that Netanyahu's supporters see the ongoing confrontation between the prime minister and the Supreme Court as an attempt to unseat the politician by the Israeli "deep state".
"The topic of the 'deep state' is raised at every demonstration in support of Netanyahu, and each time the demonstrators protest against the clique of those who are not elected, but who want to deprive the people of their right to choose", she says. "Thus, the confrontation between Netanyahu and the deep state… is in fact a standoff between the old elites and the people of Israel".
According to Gutina, a looming trial against Netanyahu appears to be the last ditch effort by his political opponents to oust him.
First, they tried to defeat him during the elections: the Israeli author elaborates that Kahol Lavan is not an established party being "created hastily as a team of three former chiefs of staff and one well-known journalist".
"This team really managed to mobilise a lot of votes, although not enough to win", she remarks.
Second, they "enlisted" Yisrael Beiteinu's Avigdor Lieberman who has worked within the right bloc for years but left it during a decisive vote in spring 2019, according to Gutina.
Third, there was an attempt to provide media and logistic support to Gideon Saar, Netanyahu's rival in the Likud primaries. "However, this did not work out either", she says.
"While Netanyahu’s request for immunity is unlikely to be granted this time, voting on this issue will even more stringently outline the confrontation between political camps and allow the Israeli prime minister to achieve even greater mobilisation of his supporters and an even louder vox popoli sound on the eve of the election", Gutina said.
Netanyahu Has 'Very Good Chances of Winning Next Elections'
In late December, Netanyahu won 72.5 percent of the party vote in the Likud leadership contest.
"This vote was more than a fair wind for Netanyahu", Avigdor Eskin believes. "There are many grass root activists who are ready to work for him during the coming elections. The indictment is going to increase his popularity because many people in Israel have no confidence in the judiciary system of Israel when it comes to the cases with some political flavour".
He draws attention to the fact that "the right-wing parties are getting united unlike it happened before".
"The right-wing religious block could have gained 5-6 more seats last time if not for those small parties who did not pass the electoral barrier", the publicist says. "The victory of Netanyahu and his allies is the most likely outcome now".
In contrast, Kahol Lavan is losing steam having no other message than "vote against Netanyahu", Eskin stresses, predicting that Gantz may lose some votes in March.
According to the political analyst, if Netanyahu runs "there are very good chances that he will win the coming elections and the next Knesset will grant him immunity"; therefore his antagonists are trying to prevent him from throwing his hat in the ring by rushing to convene a House Committee.