Controversial Immunity Law Change Begins Knesset Journey

YERUSHALAYIM -
Likud MK Miki Zohar. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Likud MK Miki Zohar on Tuesday filed documents for the first reading of a change to Israel’s Immunity Law. Under the change, MKs will be able to defer legal proceedings until the end of  the current administration.

The law is seen by many in the opposition as a last-ditch effort by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to avoid going on trial in any of the four investigations into criminal or unethical activity he allegedly engaged in.

Under the law, MKs and ministers would be subject to prosecution in criminal cases only if a committee of Knesset members votes to lift their immunity. Currently, an MK can be indicted on the recommendation of the State Attorney, and only then can an MK appeal to keep his or her immunity.

The law would obviously help out Netanyahu, but he is far from the only MK or minister that would realize a benefit from it. Others include Likud minister Chaim Katz and MK David Bitan. MK Avigdor Liberman is not currently under investigation, but has been numerous times in the past. MK Betzalel Smotrich, although not under investigation, has publicly expressed support for the bill.

Assuming the Knesset administration approves the law for a plenum discussion, it is not clear when it will come up for discussion on its first reading, Likud officials said. Zohar told Army Radio that there was time to pass the bill. “There is no need to make it part of the coalition agreements,” he said. “I believe all our coalition partners will support it as much as the Likud does. All MKs realize that we have a country to run, and we cannot do it under current threat of prosecution on charges that more often than not turn out to be tools for political persecution, as they do not lead to anything.”

Opposition MKs were unanimous in their condemnation of the proposal. Blue and White MK Yair Lapid called the filing of the law “the first shot in the war on Israeli democracy.” MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) said that the law “proves that the whole purpose of the prime minister is to slip away from the charges against him by total destruction of Israeli democracy.” Labor MK Itzik Shmuely said that “the law will destroy the principle that all are equal before the law. There will be one law for politicians and one for everyone else. They have lost not only their shame, but any hesitations about acting illegally. We will put up a protective wall against this measure, in the streets and in the Knesset. It will not become law.”