Knesset discussion .
(photo credit: HADAS PARUSH)
The Knesset voted to approve a bill limiting police recommendations at the end of high-profile investigations in a final vote on Wednesday night, after a lengthy filibuster.
The bill passed, with 59 Knesset members voting for the bill and 54 against. The new law is expected to be the subject of a petition to the High Court of Justice Thursday morning.
The Police Recommendations Law bans investigators from recommending whether the attorney-general should indict or not at the end of a probe in cases in which there is an accompanying state prosecutor, which are the highest-profile cases.
The law will not apply to investigations that have already begun, including those into alleged corruption by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, the opposition has tied the law to Netanyahu’s cases, saying it is part of an effort by him to weaken legal authorities.
Yeah Atid plans to petition the High Court against the bill at 8 a.m. Thursday.
“Coalition members,” Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said in his speech to the Knesset, “let’s say you support the bill, or convinced yourselves it’s a good law...How do you support everything else? That this bill went to the Interior Committee instead of the Constitution Committee, even though that’s not right, that United Torah Judaism is passing their Shabbat Law over your heads, with their regular blackmail. They know you’re hostages and the prime minister is afraid and will give them whatever they want.”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Yesh Atid is “humiliating the Knesset and emptying it of content, trampling the legislative branch. You understand nothing of constitutional law. I am embarrassed that after three days of discussion and endless discussions in the committee, you’re running to the court.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein warmed the opposition that if they go to the High Court to overturn the law, he will allow the coalition to block the opposition’s future filibuster attempts. In the Knesset, filibusters are mostly a strategy to vex the coalition, as there is no time limit after which a bill can no longer be voted on. In addition, the coalition can limit the length of filibusters.
New coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud) wrapped up the debate with a speech in which he called out specific opposition members for criticism, such as Zionist Union faction chairman Yoel Hasson, who “jumps from party to party - if the Joint List makes an offer, you’ll go right away,” and said Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay “is giving you instructions from home, where he’s sitting at home with his wife and eating sunflower seeds.”
The opposition filibustered the bill for over 43 hours, beginning before 3 a.m. on Tuesday, after a prior 11 hours of voting on other bills.
This week’s filibuster cost the Knesset nearly a quarter-million shekels in hotel stays for MKs, electricity, overtime for the legislature’s staff and other expenses, a Knesset source said.
Lawmakers are not required to stay on topic in the Knesset. As such, the filibuster featured such stunts as Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel reading from the book of Lamentations in the Yemenite style, Yesh Atid lawmaker Ofer Shelah reading from William Shakespeare’s Richard III, and Zionist Union MK Yossi Yona, a philosophy professor, giving a class on Plato and Machiavelli’s views on politics, with a detour to John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Michal Biran, a lawmaker from the Zionist Union, held forth on the history of pickles, and Omer Bar-Lev of the same party told a childhood story in which he jumped out of a second-floor window unscathed, but the sidewalk broke. Zionist Union faction chairman Yoel Hasson read aloud WhatsApp messages from citizens opposing the bill.
Joint List MK Haneen Zoabi chose to use her time to criticize the opposition, which she said was hypocritical for speaking for dozens of hours without dedicating any time to the plight of the Palestinians. Zoabi was met with shouting from coalition and opposition legislators, as well as Culture Minister Miri Regev, who called Zoabi a Trojan horse and said: “Go to Gaza, you traitor!”
Kulanu MKs Rachel Azaria and Merav Ben-Ari did not vote with the coalition, choosing to skip the vote for reasons of conscience. No opposition MK agreed to leave to offset the absence of Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay, who did not stay for the vote for medical reasons. Netanyahu and Welfare and Labor Minister Chaim Katz did not vote due to a conflict of interest, because both are under investigation. The other 115 MKs were present and voted, a record number since the Knesset was sworn in, in 2015.
Throughout Wednesday, the Knesset Finance Committee held meetings on last-minute, end-of-year budgetary transfers amounting to nearly NIS 6bn. The Knesset’s rules prohibit holding committee meetings during a plenum meeting, but Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein made an exception.