Knesset Lawyer Under Fire for Wife’s Role in Netanyahu Indictments

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a joint press conference with Kadima party leader Shaul Mofaz at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem on May 8, 2012. Netanyahu struck a surprise deal with the opposition Kadima party to form a national unity government, axing plans for a snap election. …
GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty

TEL AVIV – The Knesset legal adviser on Monday faced Likud demands to desist from giving a legal opinion on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for immunity after it emerged that he was reportedly in breach of contract over his wife’s involvement in formulating the criminal indictments against the prime minister. 

On Monday, Eyal Yinon denied reports that he had recused himself from any involvement in the cases against Netanyahu after he faced backlash from the Likud party over his wife’s role in the prosecution.

Earlier this month, Yinon gave a legal opinion to the chairman of the regulating committee saying that the interim Knesset could establish a House Committee before the March elections to discuss Netanyahu’s immunity request.

MK Micky Zohar (Likud) responded by sending a letter to Yinon demanding that he step down from offering his legal counsel on all affairs relating to Netanyahu on account of Yinon’s wife Amit Merari’s position in the prosecutor’s office. Merari, who serves as the deputy attorney general, was directly involved in formulating the criminal indictments against the prime minister.

“There is a strong suspicion of a very serious conflict of interest,” Zohar wrote. “It cannot be that within one couple, one makes a decision regarding an indictment against the prime minister while the other sabotages his request for immunity.”

In 2017, Merari signed a COI stating that Yinon in his Knesset post “will not be involved in any matters that I, too, am involved in.” Yinon, too, signed a similar conflict of interest document.

Yinon charged Likud lawmakers with attempts to “intimidate” him into recusing.

A spokesperson for Yinon issued a statement saying that the Knesset attorney general has no plans to recuse himself from dealing with the procedural matters currently on the table” and that Yinon “strongly denies the conflict of interest argument directed at him.”

“Introducing a conflict of interest claim only now, after yesterday’s legal opinion, which apparently is not liked by some of the involved parties, is a cynical and artificial issue aimed at intimidating the Knesset attorney general,” the statement said.

On Sunday, Yinon reiterated his position that there was no legal impediment in forming a committee to debate the immunity request prior to elections after Avi Nissankorn (Blue and White) presented the Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein with signatures from 65 MKs in favor of the committee.

Yinon admitted that there were several challenges involved in holding immunity hearings in the run-up to elections, not least of all that during the election period the Knesset does not engage in controversial matters.

However, he concluded that the Knesset’s standard electoral process cannot be allowed to “undermine the authority of the House Committee to discuss the immunity request” and that it should be done “as soon as possible.”

Zohar derided Yinon’s opinion, describing it as “nothing short of delusional.”

“To allow the Knesset to be used as a political tool by the left during an election recess is wildly absurd,” Zohar said.

“It is simply a disgrace to the Knesset,” he added.

MK Shlomo Kari (Likud) called Yinon’s opinion “easily refutable.”

“The immunity procedure is a quasi-judicial process. As such, when it is held during an election period, the person asking for it is denied the right to try to convince otherwise those committee members who are opposed to it,” Kari said.

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