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Immunity question places rule of law at heart of Israeli election campaign

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's quest for immunity from prosecution will dominate the upcoming election campaign, with rule of law at stake in Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Regional Cooperation, Tzachi Hanegbi and Cabinet Secretary Tzahi Braverman attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Israel, December 29, 2019. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS - RC2Z4E90F3NM
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In the afternoon of Jan. 1, just hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced the cameras and announced that he was seeking Knesset immunity from prosecution, his associates claimed he was still undecided on the matter. They were likely not confused but striving to create the impression that the prime minister, under indictment for bribery, was torn over whether to seek immunity, which means evading criminal prosecution. There was media and public speculation about Netanyahu’s intentions, but he had already decided weeks ago to seek immunity and was waiting for the most appropriate moment, knowing the issue was explosive.

His first task was winning his Likud's Dec. 26 leadership primary. Then he waited several more days, until less than four hours from the 30-day deadline set by law for submitting an immunity request. When Netanyahu finally faced the public shortly before the midnight deadline, he soft-peddled his immunity request, arguing that his indictment had not been filed “in good faith.” The charges against him were trumped up, he said, explaining that he was merely taking advantage of his legal right to continue serving the people and leading them to greater prosperity.

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