PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
New legislation that would prohibit the investigation of a sitting prime minister for minor crimes sparked controversy Tuesday.
The proposal by Knesset Interior Committee chairman David Amsalem (Likud) states that a premier may not be probed for minor offenses that carry a sentence of up to six months in prison, but that the prime minister’s term will not be counted against the statute of limitations for time in which the offense can be investigated.
The prime minister “must make fateful decisions about matters that influence the entire public on diplomatic, security, economic and social matters. We can’t keep him busy with investigations almost every day,” said Amsalem.
“I don’t know one democratic country in the world in which its prime minister stars in news about investigations and strange and unusual scandals so often,” he lamented. “No one really believes that the whole world is just and there are thieves only in Israel.”
As such, Amsalem said, the bill wasn’t timed specifically because of the latest mysterious probe of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reportedly involving donations from abroad, since “at any given moment there’s a secret or open investigation of a prime minister.”
“Anyone asking that question should let me know when there’s an open window with no investigation,” he said, pointing out that the last four prime ministers, plus Yitzhak Rabin, had to deal with criminal probes during their time in office.
A Likud spokesman said Amsalem’s bill was not coordinated with the prime minister and, in any case, that laws do not apply retroactively and would not be relevant to investigations that are already under way.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On mocked Amsalem’s statement that no other country has so many investigations of prime ministers, saying he should be concerned that the premier needs to be investigated so often: “But in Amsalem’s eyes, the prime minister is totally fine, and the systems of justice and equality need to be shaken up.”
“When a criminal investigation is opened, even in a ‘minor’ offense, we can’t know where it will go, but when it’s not opened, it won’t go anywhere.
The law already states that investigations of the prime minister and MKs need the attorney-general’s permission so there’s no concern of fake investigations,” she pointed out.
Several Zionist Union MKs came out against the bill, saying no one should be above the law.
According to MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union), Likud MKs are trying to undermine the rule of law to their political advantage.
“No one in Israel is above the law, not this prime minister, not his predecessors and not those who come after him. If Amsalem wants the prime minister to be free to make decisions that influence the public, he is invited to pass a law that will require the prime minister to give back the four ministerial portfolios he holds at the same time, in addition to being prime minister,” Shai stated.
MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union) called the bill “a new standard of disrespect for the public and harm to the rule of law,” saying: “We can shorten the process and just say that Netanyahu and his son can rule Israel forever and won’t have to follow the law.
The Likud crossed another red line today in turning Israel in to a monarchy. At this rate, Israel will be like Erdogan’s Turkey.”