Prime Minister Benajmin Netanyahu boards flight to Kenya.
(photo credit: GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Labor and Welfare Minister Haim Katz will not participate in the final vote on the police recommendations bill, Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon said Wednesday, pointing to the ongoing investigations into allegations of corruption by both of them.
Responding to a letter from the Movement for Quality Government about a possible conflict of interest, Yinon said that Netanyahu and Katz “did not participate in the vote on the first reading of the bill,” on Monday, “and according to coalition chairman David Bitan, he is not taking them into consideration for votes in a second and third reading,” expected to take place next week.
As for whether Bitan has a conflict of interest, in light of media reports about a probe into his activities, Yinon said that both he and the Likud lawmaker were not notified of an ongoing investigation by any official source.
The bill in question 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.
However, the attorney-general may ask for them in investigations that have already begun. The bill 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.
Zionist Union faction chairman Yoel Hasson said the opposition is ready to use every tool it has to stop the legislation.
“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… This is the bill to obstruct investigations.”
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, Yinon said there is no legal problem with doing so.
However, Hasson revealed that Bitan 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.