Coalition chairman MK David Bitan said Thursday that he was perfectly justified in removing fellow Likud MK Benny Begin from the Knesset Interior Committee, after he refused to vote with the government on a law to prevent police from making recommendations to legal officials on whether or not to pursue charges against detainees.
“Begin, in recent months, has become the 25th vote of the Zionist Camp,” based on his voting record, giving the Likud’s rival an extra edge over the 24 MKs it has in the Knesset, Bitan told Israel Radio.
The removal of Begin occurred Wednesday night, right before a critical vote on approving the legislation for a Knesset vote. Taking Begin’s place on the committee was Yoav Kish, who did vote with the government — and the law was approved for legislation.
Bitan told Israel Radio Thursday that Begin was not “ejected” but, rather, “replaced. I didn’t eject Begin, I replaced him. He is representing the opposition. It doesn’t make sense” for a committee that is supposed to support the government to include an MK who does not support it. Under Knesset laws, both the governing coalition and the opposition contribute members to various Knesset committees, in proportion to their numbers in the Knesset. As a representative of the Likud, Begin is supposed to vote with the government, Bitan said, and if he refused to do so, there was no reason he should not be replaced.
MK David Amsalem (Likud), who sponsored the legislation, told Israel Radio that he had discussed the matter with Begin. “I told him that I liked him a great deal, but if you have a hard time voting for this bill, just don’t show up for the vote. He did not agree. In these committee votes, each voice is crucial. I told him to vote with us on the committee, and in the Knesset vote do what you want — and again he refused. He was wrong to act in this way,” Amsalem said.
Speaking at the committee meeting Wednesday night, Begin said that his opposition to the bill was technical. “The bill has no date as to when it will take effect, so we don’t know if it will affect cases going forward, or others. I want to fill in the blanks, and have the law affect cases that come up only after the law is passed,” Begin said.
Israel Police Chief Roni Alshich has expressed opposition to the law. Speaking to reporters at a press conference in October, Alshich said that it was not clear what the legislation was about, since “today we do not make recommendations as it is. As far as prosecutions are concerned, we provide a summary of a cases and inform prosecutors whether there is enough evidence to proceed in a case.” That, Alshich said, was not the same as making “recommendations” on pursuing cases.
Alshich said that the decision to prosecute was totally up to prosecutors, who made their decision on the basis of the public good. “It is up to them, and in none of our official documents do we make recommendations, as it is not our job.” With that, he added, police needed to be able to provide information on whether the evidence exists to proceed with a case. “You can’t complete an investigation without a summary, otherwise you are leaving it in the hands of prosecutors to complete the investigation. Is that what we want?” A summary and comment on the evidence “is a clear sign that an investigation is complete. It is based on that information that a determination is made if further action is necessary in a case.”