Netanyahu with Edelstein
Netanyahu with EdelsteinNoam Riklin Fenton/Flash90

Likud officials excoriated Knesset Speaker and Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, claiming that the veteran lawmaker would never be forgiven for caving to Opposition demands to rule on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s parliamentary immunity request during the current Knesset.

According to a report Monday by Yediot Aharanot, Likud officials said Edelstein’s decision Sunday to move forward with deliberations on Netanyahu’s immunity request in the outgoing Knesset in the midst of election season amounted to ‘selling the party out’.

“Edelstein sold us out, and cheaply,” said one official. “When it comes from him, it legitimizes what Blue and White is doing. He fueled Blue and White’s campaign. It looks like he wants to ‘pull a Rivlin’, and ingratiate himself with other parties,” the official continued, referencing President Reuven Rivlin, a former Likud MK.

“If he doesn’t change his decision, it looks like he’s finished in the Likud.”

Another senior Likud official echoed these sentiments, adding that the party would never forgive Edelstein.

“If Edelstein was dreaming of becoming president, he’s lost the Likud with this decision. We won’t support him. The Likud won’t forgive him for this.”

On Sunday, Edelstein announced that he would convene the Knesset plenum next Tuesday to weigh in on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s request for parliamentary immunity.

“At a press briefing last week I declared that ‘I will not delay nor will I hasten the hearing. I will make all the relevant decisions based on the values that I have followed my entire life, and in adherence to the law, the Knesset’s regulations, and legal precedent.’ That is exactly how I have acted now. Even though I disagree with the opinion of the Knesset’s legal advisor, I believe that it is important to maintain all of the parties’ faith in the institution of the Knesset Speakership.”

The decision sparked criticism from the Likud, which had argued that Netanyahu’s request should be assessed by the next Knesset, rather than by the lame-duck Knesset during a caretaker government in the midst of election season. The Blue and White party had demanded Edelstein move forward with the hearings as soon as possible.

"It is sad to see Edelstein falling into the trap of the left. He allows himself to turn the Knesset into a political circus during an election by lending his hand to the ploys of the leftists who are trying to use the Knesset only to neutralize Netanyahu,” officials close to Netanyahu said.

"No matter how much the media and the left embrace the Speaker of the Knesset, he will never be able to escape responsibility for this. His decision de facto states that the Prime Minister's affairs will be decided politically and not as matter-of-factly and judiciously as the law requires," the associates continued.