Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved, with caveats, on Sunday a bill that could impact the outcome of investigations of possible corruption by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The bill, to which Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan voiced opposition, would prohibit police from making recommendations to the attorney-general at the end of an investigation. The more controversial part of the bill would not allow the police to write a summary of its findings.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, chairwoman of the ministerial committee, said the bill will undergo significant changes with her and Erdan’s approval, between a preliminary reading on Wednesday and its first reading in the Knesset.
The updated draft of the bill is expected to only ban publicizing the contents of an investigation’s summary and to provide that there be only be a summary, not a recommendation, in investigations accompanied by a state attorney – meaning those involving elected officials and senior public servants.
Likud MK David Amsalem, chairman of the Knesset Interior Committee, which oversees the Public Security Ministry and police, proposed the bill. The initiative is his second that could impact Netanyahu’s investigations – the previous one, which would ban criminal probes of a sitting prime minister, was put on hold due to disagreements within the coalition.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit voiced unusually strong opposition to the bill.
Erdan said he “opposes prohibiting a recommendation or stance by the investigators as is worded in its current draft. As for recommendations, for years, the police does not give recommendations about indicting or not.
“There is no way to finish investigating a case and give it to the state attorney without the investigators including their professional view and estimation about the evidence they collected,” the minister added.
Erdan said, however, he thinks it should be illegal to make the summary public “because the publicity could create a false image for the suspects before the authorized factors decide whether to indict.”
State Attorney Shai Nitzan also expressed his opposition to the bill to the Ministerial Committee, saying that, for the past 15 years, all the police do is say whether there is an evidentiary basis for an indictment. If the police say there is no basis, the Attorney-General’s Office almost always does not indict.
Nitzan said he “didn’t see a benefit to the proposal” and that a recommendation is necessary “in order to understand a case better. The investigators were involved, and I want to hear them. There is great significance to the recommendations.”
In addition, Nitzan posited that the public has the right to know if there is evidence against a public figure.
Opposition MKs spoke out against the bill, accusing the Likud of focusing on protecting Netanyahu from corruption allegations.
“This is another desperate attempt to put pressure on the police before Netanyahu is summoned to testify about the submarines affair,” tweeted Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid.
Zionist Union MK Eyal Ben-Reuven called it “another shameful bill from this extremist coalition.”
“Preventing the police from publicizing recommendations neuters the police’s work,” he said. “There is no investigation without a recommendation...This doesn’t cancel acts of corruption and bribery. Netanyahu and his partners are in distress.”
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