The Recommendations Law was approved after a first reading in the Knesset plenum by a vote of 46 to 37 after long and acrimonious debate on Monday evening.
The bill’s sponsor, MK David Amsalem of Likud, rejected accusations that it was designed to protect Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, insisting that he was advancing it purely “from the human rights angle…It has nothing to do with the prime minister, I never even consulted him.”
Amsalem adduced statistics to illustrate the need for the law: “In the state of Israel, [only] some 30,000 cases ever reach the State Attorney’s Office (SAO) out of 350,000. Of those 30,000 — and this isn’t my data but data presented by (State Attorney) Shay Nitzan — police recommend the SAO close 12,000 of them,” he said.
“That leaves 18,000. Police tell the State Attorney’s Office there’s ‘sufficient evidence to indict,’ and of those the SAO closes 14,000 and takes the remaining 4,000 to trial. In other words, 80 percent of the cases police recommend indicting is later closed by the SAO. What happens along the way? The lives of the people involved are completely ruined,” Amsalem said.
The opposition attacked it as, in the words of Zionist Camp MK Tzipi Livni, a bill that seeks to “prevent the public from knowing the truth” about corruption in the Netanyahu government.
Coalition members Rachel Azaria (Kulanu) and Benny Begin (Likud) boycotted the vote in protest.
Earlier in the day, the Knesset Interior Committee approved the advancement of the Recommendations Law, after committee MKs compromised on several matters that had been in contention. According to the approved version of the law, police will be able to comment on what they believe the disposition of a case should be — but they will not be able to make public comments on cases. In addition, police will not make recommendations at all on high-profile cases, including those that involve a prime minister, unless the State Attorney believes that doing so is necessary for the advancement of the case.
Police will be required to plug up leaks, according to the law. Any officer found leaking information about cases will be subject to up to a year in prison. The government plans to bring the law to the Knesset Monday evening for approval on its first reading, after which it will be sent back to the committee for preparation for its second and third reading.
The controversial law has led to a great deal of name-calling and shouting among MKs. Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid slammed the law, calling it the “Netanyahu law,” as it is designed to prevent the public from hearing the truth on the numerous scandals the prime minister is allegedly involved in, according to Lapid. Zionist Camp head Avi Gabay said that the “noise” surrounding the resignation of Rabbi Yaakov Litzman as health minister was orchestrated in order to divert the attention of Israelis from the passage of “the corruption bill of Netanyahu.” MK Tzippy Livni said that “if there is anyone in the government with any integrity, they should bury the bill.”
MK David Amsalem (Likud), who sponsored the legislation, told Israel Radio that the law was “absolutely necessary. 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.”
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 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.