Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Did the final version of the Police Recommendations Law protect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from having the police publicize a recommendation to indict him?
Yes and no.
If the question is about Case 1000 (alleged illegal gifts) or Case 2000 (alleged media bribery), the answer is that the law as passed allows the police to publish any recommendation to indict.
If the question is about Case 3000 (the Submarine Affair), nobody really knows.
This is partly because Netanyahu is not yet officially a suspect in Case 3000.
What does the law say?
It says that it will not block the police from publishing recommendations regarding investigations that were ongoing when the legislation was approved.
Reasonably, it could be argued that since the Case 3000 probe opened before the law was passed, the police could publish any recommendation to indict the prime minister there, if he becomes a suspect at some point.
But what if Netanyahu asserts that the law only applies to persons who were already suspects in investigations at the time the law was passed?
Since he is not yet a suspect, such an interpretation could force the police to keep their mouth shut regarding any implications for him in Case 3000.
It is not a far-fetched interpretation either – some investigations take years.
Shouldn’t the law only apply to aspects of an investigation that developed a year or two after it was passed?
Originally, the bill was written to work retroactively, and would have shielded Netanyahu from the police publicizing any recommendation to indict him in Cases 1000 and 2000.
The authors of the amendment to the law that exempts ongoing investigations could say that the change was targeted at those cases – not future developments which could not be foreseen.
This is not a small issue.
Though it is true that the law allows the police to publish any recommendations to close a case, the prohibition on their publishing recommendations to indict is fully intact.
Some might say that if no recommendation to close is filed, everyone knows that the recommendation was to indict.
But there is no set date for when the police must make their recommendations, so if there is extended silence, no one will know whether the police have recommended to indict or simply have not decided.
Also, what is in the recommendation is critical.
Leaks from Kulanu have let it be known that if the police file a recommendation to indict the prime minister, but it is “light,” i.e. for the most minor offenses, the party will likely stay in the government.
In contrast, if it is for bribery or something sounding like bribery, it may very well topple the government.
Exactly what the recommendations say could also very well affect what the public thinks of Netanyahu, presuming he runs for prime minister again.
These are no small consequences for what the recommendations say.
Furthermore, Case 3000 in some ways is far more serious than Cases 1000 and 2000 – it deals with paramount issues of national security, including submarines capable of firing missiles carrying nuclear warheads.
Legal or not, many people might understand the receiving of expensive cigars and champagne. Fewer are likely to understand playing games with Israel’s national security.
Of course, Netanyahu is currently not a suspect in Case 3000.
However, if he becomes one – as many think is inevitable given that so many of his top advisers are suspects – we are likely to find out just how unclear the implications of this newly passed law are.