Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The opposition is ready to use every tool it has to stop the bill meant to deter the police from recommending that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted for alleged corruption, Zionist Union faction chairman Yoel Hasson said Wednesday.
“We won’t cooperate with this bill in any way,” Hasson said. “We won’t drop any objections, even in the plenum... the debate will take weeks. Call it a filibuster if you want.”
The bill in question, which is expected to go to a vote next week, stops police officers from making recommendations to the attorney-general as to whether to indict or not at the end of the highest-profile investigations, unless the attorney-general specifically asks for them. It would also make those leaking contents of a police investigation liable for a prison sentence of up to a year.
While the bill has been significantly softened since its introduction, its opponents have charged that it’s meant to help Netanyahu before the current investigations against him come to their end – something that Likud MK David Amsalem, who proposed the bill, has not denied. In addition, opponents have expressed concern that it is weakening and delegitimizing the police’s authority.
“This is the bill to obstruct investigations,” Hasson lamented.
The coalition had planned to bring the bill to a final vote on Monday, only a week after its first reading, which is much quicker than for most bills. In response to a letter from opposition MKs, Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon said there is no legal problem with doing so.
However, Hasson revealed that coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) offered on Wednesday to postpone the vote if the opposition agrees to limit the amount of time it gives speeches against the bill.
Hasson suspects that Bitan made the offer out of concern that he won’t have enough votes next week, because MKs and ministers are at the Saban Forum in Washington DC and on other trips abroad, and the opposition refuses to offset any of those absences.
“I won’t make any deals for this bill,” Hasson said. “It’s not worth selling out our values.”
Despite Hasson’s tough stance, there are no true filibusters in the Knesset, because of what’s known as “Article 98,” by which the coalition can force a schedule for debate.
But Hasson said even invoking Article 98 is good for him, because when Bitan uses “tools to trample us,” it makes him look bad.
“That article is supposed to be for emergency situations. It’s dramatic,” he stated.
The Zionist Union faction chairman responded to the strong criticism he faced after 17 opposition lawmakers were absent on Monday night’s first reading.
Hasson recounted that it was unclear until the last minute that the bill would go to a vote at all, because the coalition was not sure if it would have a majority, and Bitan was negotiating with Kulanu, which has reservations about the legislation.
“The moment we knew it was going to a vote, we canceled all offsetting, including ones we’d given in advance, and MKs who planned to leave didn’t,” Hasson said.