Likud chief Netanyahu under fire

JERUSALEM — Israel's Likud Party leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, has become the focus of a controversy over a classified defense document he showed Knesset members last year.

The High Court of Justice this week rejected a request to remove Netanyahu's parliamentary immunity so that he could face charges of endangering national security.

Knesset member Ran Cohen of the left-wing Meretz party requested the move, after Netanyahu showed fellow MKs the Israeli army document last June.

The document detailed security arrangements with Syria that would form the basis of a peace agreement between the two countries.

The document appeared to back away from Israel's demand to maintain an early-warning station on the Golan Heights and also presumed a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan as part of a peace agreement with Syria.

Netanyahu claimed before the Knesset that then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had ordered the army to prepare the document to be used in discussions with Syria.

Rabin at first denied all knowledge of the document; later he termed it a "stolen document."

Netanyahu said the document proved that the Rabin government was willing to compromise Israel's security needs to reach a peace agreement with Damascus.

This week, the court ruled that Netanyahu's actions were sheltered by his parliamentary immunity.

But the court instructed Minister of Internal Security Moshe Shahal and Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair to explain why it had not ordered an inquiry to determine how the document was leaked to Netanyahu.