Bill accused of shielding Netanyahu from charges clears early hurdle

“If the bill isn’t personal and won’t influence the prime minister, why pass it hastily and under pressure?” Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria asked.

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November 8, 2017 15:45
3 minute read.
David Amsalem

David Amsalem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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Legislation that would stop police from making recommendations to the attorney-general at the end of investigations – which opponents have said is meant to shield the prime minister from indictment on corruption charges – passed a preliminary reading 52-42 in the Knesset on Wednesday.

“Why does the police make recommendations?” asked Likud MK David Amsalem, who proposed the bill.

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“Anyway, the state attorney decides [whether to move forward with the case]. The police is saying to the public [when it recommends an indictment], ‘We caught the thief and the prosecutors closed the case, so complain to them, not us.’” According to Amsalem, police investigate nearly 15,000 people each year whose cases don’t lead to indictments, and this legislation is meant to help them.

“It’s clear that if we take the prime minister out of this, many of you would support it. This is a worrying phenomenon that must stop. I am coming from the civic angle.

The prime minister is part of the Israeli people, not from Hezbollah, and he has rights like all citizens,” Amsalem argued.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid asked why, if this is an issue regarding thousands of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under investigation? “How did this bill arrive a minute before the investigations of the prime minister are at the recommendation stage?” Lapid asked. “MK Amsalem, you are an emissary [of Netanyahu]...

The truth is that you are trying to save the prime minister. Whom are you fooling? Yourself? The prime minister is afraid of the recommendations, and sent you.”

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Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi), who represented the government position, said the bill will lengthen the process of dealing with these cases, which could unnecessarily lengthen the disruption to people’s lives.

Therefore, the coalition plans to make changes to the legislation and bring it back to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and the Public Security Ministry for a review before it goes to a first reading.

The coalition intends to change the text of the initiative to limit its scope to the highest-profile cases, in which a state prosecutor accompanies the police investigation, as is the procedure for probes involving public officials.

In other cases, the police will be able to recommend whether to indict or not.

In addition, the coalition plans to institute sanctions against anyone who leaks the content of a police investigation.

The bill has been subject to ongoing disputes within the coalition, and Wednesday’s vote was almost delayed because Bayit Yehudi and the Likud argued over which committee should prepare the measure. In the end, it went to the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee, led by Bayit Yehudi MK Nissan Slomiansky.

Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria voted against the bill, arguing that it “hurts the police and prosecution and overburdens the system.

“If the bill isn’t personal [promulgated to help a specific person] and won’t affect the prime minister, why pass it hastily and under pressure?” Azaria asked.

Earlier on Wednesday, Amsalem held a meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee, which he leads, to discuss the police employing a strategic adviser, Lior Chorev, who has written sharp criticism of MKs and ministers on Twitter.

“This is someone who broke the rules of the game while making NIS 800,000 a year from the state,” Amsalem argued.

Yesh Atid MK Yael German and others in the opposition argued that it is unfair for the committee to discuss the employment of a specific person.

“You’re [Amsalem] using Knesset resources to turn this committee into a tool to complain that you were insulted,” MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) said.

Amsalem demanded that Deputy Attorney-General Dina Zilber, who was present at the Knesset Interior Committee session, look into the issue.

Zilber, however, said that the police still needs to have its own internal discussion of the matter, and the commissioner should make his own decision before the Attorney-General’s Office decides whether to intervene.


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