Netanyahu Disavows PM Immunity Bill

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with Likud MK David Bitan. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has disavowed an immunity bill put forward by his party, after it raised hackles among coalition partners and unusually sharp criticism from the attorney general.

Netanyahu declared on Sunday that he is “not interested” in the “French bill,” so-called because it was patterned after a similar law in France, which gives high officials immunity from criminal prosecution during their term of office.

“About the ‘French bill,’ I want to say clearly: I am not interested in any law relating to investigations happening now that are connected to me, or that are happening now and are not connected to me,” Netanyahu stated.

Netanyahu’s comment came in the middle of an uproar within the coalition over the contentious bill.

The coalition chairman David Bitan, who has made the immunity bill a do-or-die issue, was reported shouting at Jewish Home MKs outside Sunday’s Cabinet meeting.

“Jewish Home are a bunch of liars. If they want, we will bring down the government over the bill to prevent the prime minister’s investigations,” Bitan threatened, according to Army Radio.

Meanwhile, at Bitan’s order, all non-ministerial legislation produced by the coalition has been frozen until the matter is settled — his way. As a result, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation has processed only 3 out of 38 bills on its current agenda.

Jewish Home insisted that the bill should not be brought forward in committee on Sunday.

“Because this is a [quasi-constitutional] Basic Law, it can’t advance without our support,” sources in the party said. “There was a clear agreement that the bill would not come up now, and so, tomorrow it will also not come up for a vote.”

Jewish Home’s Knesset leader MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli informed Bitan last Wednesday in a letter that her party would not be ready to vote on the bill at this stage due to “significant disagreements between members of the faction,” which compel opposition to it at this time.

Yerushalayim Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin, himself a former coalition chairman, urged moderation on Sunday.

“Make sure this doesn’t get out of control,” Elkin said. “Everyone needs to calm down.”

Bitan retorted: “Staying in charge isn’t everything. Sometimes we need to stand up for our principles.”

“You’re lighting the coalition on fire. Even if you’re right, solve this quietly,” Elkin advised, according to The Jerusalem Post.

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