Coalition parties push back against banning probes of sitting PM

Bill drafted by David Amsalem states that a current prime minister cannot be investigated unless probe is of serious crimes or crimes which could cause significant harm to Israel's security.

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October 22, 2017 16:57
3 minute read.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at the ICT Conference n Herzliya

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at the ICT Conference n Herzliya. (photo credit: KFIR BOLOTIN/ICT)

 
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The Knesset winter session began on Monday after a long summer recess, with a full agenda and a coalition in disarray, after ministerial voting on bills by individual MKs was put on hold over coalition quarrels.

The freeze in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation was put in place on Sunday when Bayit Yehudi and Kulanu voiced reservations about a Likud lawmaker’s proposal to ban investigations of sitting prime ministers.

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The “French bill,” drafted by Likud MK David Amsalem based on a French constitutional amendment, states that a criminal investigation of a prime minister cannot be opened unless it is of security-related crimes, violence, sexual violations or drugs, or of a crime that, without an immediate investigation, could cause significant harm to the country’s security or economy.

The time in which the prime minister was in office will not be counted for the statute of limitations on prosecuting the crime.

The legislation does not apply to already-opened investigations, and it will not impact the current police probe into allegations of corruption by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Amsalem’s proposal was on the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s agenda for Sunday, but did not go to a vote due to disagreements within the coalition.

The committee rescheduled the vote for next week.



Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, the committee’s chairwoman, made positive comments about the bill earlier this year, but on Saturday night, she said she would not support it unless it was passed at the same time as term limits for prime ministers.

“I think that if we don’t allow for investigations, it’s logical to limit terms,” Shaked told Channel 2.

“There is a lot of logic in it.”

Kulanu took a position similar to Shaked’s.

Shortly after the Justice Minister’s statement, Amsalem updated his bill to include term limits for the prime minister. According to the updated text, a prime minister cannot form another government after serving two complete consecutive terms or eight consecutive years, whichever is longer. Only four Israeli governments have ever lasted a full term.

The bill technically allows a prime minister to serve longer than twelve consecutive years. A full term is often more than four years long because it ends in the Hebrew month of Heshvan in the fourth year, which means that could add up to more than nine years. Or, in the more likely scenario that a Knesset lasts for less than a full term, an election could be called in a prime minister’s eighth year – but before he or she has served for eight full years – allowing him or her to form a government after the next election and serve out a full term.

The proposal also does not set a limit on non-consecutive terms.

Though Amsalem willingly made changes to his bill, coalition chairman David Bitan refused to have the two go to a debate at the same time.

As a result of disputes between Bitan and Shaked, in which the former said he would block bills from Bayit Yehudi, her party, nearly all Ministerial Committee for Legislation votes on private member bills were postponed.

Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay called on coalition party leaders to stop “arguing over the French cheese bill and its stench, be resolute and do not negotiate over a law that cannot be legislated.”

Among the bills frozen due to the coalition infighting are several proposals by Bayit Yehudi MKs, such as one allowing Israelis to return to and live in Northern Samaria, which Israel evacuated at the same time as the 2005 Gaza disengagement; one allowing the Knesset to re-legislate laws canceled by the Supreme Court, and one barring the court from annulling laws.

They also included a Kulanu bill that changes the way child support is paid; MKs in the party proposed that the burden be divided between divorced parents, taking each one’s income into consideration.

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