zevulun orlev 298 88 aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is not legally required to suspend himself from his position despite the two criminal investigations opened against him by police, but that could change if the Knesset passes a new bill when it returns for its winter session next week.
The bill, proposed Monday, would require prime ministers, presidents, ministers and Knesset speakers to suspend themselves for three months if they come under formal criminal investigation.
It also would require police to complete all investigative procedures against those office holders within that time frame and to decide by then whether to issue indictments.
The bill was initiated by National Religious Party Chairman Zevulun Orlev, who heads the Knesset State Control Committee, and former coalition chairman MK Avigdor Yitzhaki of Kadima, both of whom are avid foes of Olmert.
Yitzhaki, who has decided to quit the legislature and said publicly he was determined to bring Olmert down with him, said, however, that the bill had nothing to do with any personal animosity for Olmert. As a former director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, he said he had seen how "perpetual investigations" prevent senior office holders from doing their jobs.
"It cannot be that a prime minister will be threatened by investigations for so long," Yitzhaki said. "It's not normal for a prime minister to have to work with legal authorities as part of his job while he is being investigated by them. It's not right for ministers to have to endure endless suffering, either."
Last week, Yitzhaki defended the prime minister when police opened a criminal investigation into Olmert's 2004 purchase of a Jerusalem home.
Yitzhaki, himself, is being investigated for allegedly helping a hi-tech executive evade taxes in a probe that has gone on for an extended period of time. He is also close to Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who is outraged that an investigation he the subject of has stretched on for eight years.
Orlev, however, said it was wrong that prime ministers did not have to pay any price when formal criminal investigations are opened against them.
"The fact that prime ministers can be investigated for years is unacceptable and we have to change it with legislation," Orlev said.
"No normal country would accept having a prime minister with so many criminal investigations hanging over his head. This is especially problematic in Israel, where the prime minister needs to be free to deal with matters of state full time."
Meanwhile, Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen raised eyebrows on Sunday when he wished Olmert a long political life in a visit to Olmert's succa in Jerusalem, despite the two current formal investigations and two more that may be opened in coming months.