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How Israelis are Split Over Prime Minister Netanyahu's Immunity

Ten days are left for Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to submit his appeal to the country's parliament - the Knesset - for immunity.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was indicted in a series of graft probes in November, needs the support of his fellow parliamentarians, who are slated to decide on whether to grant him immunity from prosecution.

The Knesset seems to be split. The right-wing block, supportive of Netanyahu, has already vowed it would back the prime minister. The rival centre left-wing block, headed by former chief of staff Benny Gantz, promised to ensure he was held responsible.
Immunity as the Bone of Contention

But they are not alone. The divide in Israel's public seems to get wider too. According to the poll of one of Israel's leading news websites Walla!, some 56 percent of Israelis think that immunity for officials including for the Prime Minister is out of question.

Masha Yaron, an engineer in her late 30s, is one of them and says she cannot back immunity for the Prime Minister, although she does admit he has done a lot for the country.

Netanyahu, who has earned the name Mr. Security, is known for his ability to confront terror. But he is also appreciated for the overhaul he brought to the country's economy, transforming it from a socialism-oriented into a modern free market economy.

It was under him that Israel made major breakthroughs in privatisation, removing entire industries from government control and signing free trade agreements with a number of states.

In foreign relations, Netanyahu is seen as a leader who built strong relations with Russia and established ties with countries that Israel had previously no relations with - like Chad.
"He is a great leader and I cannot imagine anyone else negotiating with Hamas or dealing with Russia and the US, but he should not be granted immunity," says Yaron. "He should step down, prove his innocence and then - when his reputation is cleared - come back to rule the country".
Planned Plot

But not everyone agrees. Guy Even-Tzur, a salesman in his early 30s, says this is not the way a civilised country should act.

"In a democracy, the guilt of a person should be proven, not his innocence. That's why I support giving Netanyahu the immunity, also because it is a basic law of Israel".

Israeli law clearly states that the prime minister can keep his post until there is a verdict in his case. Considering the fact that the trial hasn't yet started, and when it does begin, judges will need to hear 333 witnesses in the three graft probes into Netanyahu, reaching a verdict might take years.
"This is exactly why this law has been created - to avoid situations where a mafia of clerks tries to kick out a democratically elected prime minister," says Even-Tzur, referring to the police, the media and the judiciary that allegedly joined forces against Netanyahu, building him a series of cases.

Even-Tzur is far from being the only Israeli that doesn't trust Israel's media and the country's institutions.

In 2017, for example, the Israel Democracy Institute, an independent centre dedicated to strengthening the foundations of Israel's democracy, found out that only 30 percent of Israeli Jews believed the media, and 40 percent trusted the police. The situation was worse among Arab Israelis who indicated even less trust in the same institutions.
"Instead of being objective and unbiased, these institutions started taking sides. They have been plotting this [ousting Netanyahu from power] for a long time. Why don't they investigate other politicians," questioned Even-Tzur.

Although Yaron also believes the media is obsessed with Netanyahu, blowing up things out of proportion, she says there is no smoke without a fire.

"He has been caught and therefore needs to take responsibility for his actions. Every politician - big or small - should know that breaching the law is punishable, and Netanyahu is no exception. He needs to resign".

But Even-Tzur dismisses these and similar remarks.
"I wouldn't step down if I was him. He needs to stay and fight. Let the left-wing win us over on March 2nd, when we go to the polls, not in plots and political coups".

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