Deal Would Allow PM Investigations, But Prevent Police Prosecution Bids

YERUSHALAYIM -
Netanyahu Knesset
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaks Monday during the special plenary session opening the winter session of the Knesset. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Discussion by ministers of a law that would exempt a sitting Prime Minister from police criminal inquiries will be delayed at least a month, Likud whip MK David Bitan said Wednesday. After several coalition partners, including Jewish Home and Kulanu expressed opposition to the bill, Bitan said that the Ministerial Law Committee, which had been scheduled to discuss it on Sunday, will hold off on deciding whether to approve it for legislation. As the bill is sponsored by Likud MK David Amsalem, it is certain that the bill would be approved for legislation if it was discussed by the ministers.

However, Channel Two reported Wednesday that the bill may never be brought for approval – because Bitan is trying to work out a deal with coalition partners that would move focus of the bill from one that exempts the Prime Minister from police inquiries, to another that would prevent police from making recommendations to legal officials on whether or not to pursue charges against detainees. Currently, police do just that, and the practice has long been criticized by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and key government officials.

Last week, Netanyahu’s office criticized Police Chief Roni Alshich for failing to follow through on a promise to stop making those recommendations, as he committed to when he first took office. Instead, the government will promote legislation to prevent police from making those recommendations.

Bitan believes that Jewish Home, Kulanu, and all other coalition partners will readily support the bill, and that it would have a similar effect on investigations as the bill to exempt a prime minister from police investigations, as prosecutors will be free to make up their mind on the evidence, and not feel pressure from police, who, government officials say, inevitably recommend prosecuting anyone under investigation.

The law to exempt a sitting prime minister from investigation would not have applied to Netanyahu’s current cases, but it would prevent police from opening a new investigation against him. In the case of a prime minister who is suspected of wrongdoing, it would be up to the Knesset to boot him out of office and vote in a new prime minister, according to the law. That law was to be accompanied by a companion rule – limiting the term a single prime minister could serve to eight years.

“There is an army that has formed in this country to boot the prime minister out of office,” Amsalem said. “It is an obsession, similar to how they deploy the army in third world countries. For the past 20 years every prime minister has been investigated, and it has shut the state down. The current situation is intolerable. Those who wish to change the leadership of the country must do it at the voting booth, not via the police.” In a statement, State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit said that he opposed the law in the past, and he still opposed it.