Coalition renews push to ban investigating sitting Israeli Prime Minister

Coalition chairman David Bitan said that he is "willing to consider" term limits for prime minister.

sraeli lawmakers attend a vote on a bill at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem February 6, 2017 (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
sraeli lawmakers attend a vote on a bill at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem February 6, 2017
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Legislation that would prevent police from investigating a sitting prime minister will be on the Knesset agenda for the winter session beginning this week.
The “French bill” proposed by Likud MK David Amsalem and supported by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked 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 Israel’s security or economy. According to the proposal, the time the prime minister was in office will not be counted for the statute of limitations on prosecuting the crime.
It’s called the “French bill,” because it is based on a constitutional amendment passed after a French court accepted a claim by former French president Jacques Chirac that he cannot be investigated during his presidency for crimes committed before he was elected.
Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) told Kan Radio Monday that the coalition will promote the bill in the coming term.
“Of course it’s connected to the investigation of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, but not to recent events,” Bitan said. “For 20 years already, prime ministers have been investigated and we need to stop it and freeze the investigations until after his term.”
Bitan also shrugged off Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s opposition to the bill.
In addition, when asked about the option that Netanyahu call an election, in order to have the law go into effect and for him to not be investigated, Bitan pointed out that there are investigations already open, and that the law will not apply retroactively.
Similarly, Amsalem told 103FM: “The bill I’m proposing isn’t going to stop Netanyahu’s investigations. It’s relevant to future investigations. You can’t stop one in the middle, and therefore, I’m not passing this bill to help Netanyahu. My bill will help the next prime ministers, who I know will be investigated, because all the prime ministers in the last 20 years were.”
“The French Law doesn’t allow this, there’s a law on the topic in Italy, too, and there is nothing like this phenomenon abroad,” Amsalem said of investigating sitting premiers. “Either all the thieves and crooks are in Israel and the people of the world are righteous, or we have a problem with the system.”
Following a report that Kulanu will condition its support for the “French bill” on term limits, Bitan said that he’s “willing to consider the matter…It will be a time limit and not a term limit, unlike in the US. In Israel, there can be a government that lasts six months. We will agree to a limit on the number of years.”
Kulanu’s spokesman denied that the party is conditioning one bill on the other, and said the party the party has yet to take an official position on the “French bill.”
Earlier this year, then-Zionist Union faction chairwoman Michal Michaeli said such a law would be unfair in Israel, where there are no term limits, and called to pass her proposal to only allow a prime minister to serve for two terms.
“In our political culture, the prime minister can hold as many portfolios as he feels like, make coalition agreements that serve only him, and his cousin can negotiate in our names while serving as his legal adviser without declaring any conflict of interest. In Netanyahu’s political culture, we can’t decide that prime ministers can’t be investigated,” Michaeli stated.