Likud MK David Amsalem on Monday announced plans to propose Knesset legislation that would give immunity from certain types of police investigations and criminal prosecution to Israel’s sitting prime minister.
Amsalem’s planned bill was prompted by the latest police investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was interrogated under caution by police on Monday evening over corruption suspicions.
Amsalem’s bill would amend Israel’s Basic Law to prohibit police from investigating an incumbent premier for fraud, bribery and breach of trust.
Amsalem said similar laws exist in France.
The legislation would allow a sitting prime minister to serve out the remainder of their term before police could launch open an investigation into suspected wrongdoing. It would not offer protection from security, sex, violence or drug-related offenses.
Netanyahu is being investigated over allegations that he accepted a “string of valuable gifts” from at least two businessmen during his time in office. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in the affair. Police have refused to comment on reports that one of the two businessmen is World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder, who is among the 50 people said to have already testified in the probe.
Amsalem and other sources close to Netanyahu have maintained his innocence, and linked the investigation to efforts to oust the prime minister from power.
He told Army Radio Monday that media “eagerness” surrounding the latest Netanyahu probe was threatening Israel’s democratic foundations.
“There is a motivation to remove the Right from power,” he charged. “We need to take away any motivation other than that pertaining to the investigation itself. There is a basic democratic principle that the people chose someone to lead the country. That is the most important principle and it takes precedence over all others.”
Even if Amsalem’s bill were to pass all three Knesset readings and become law, it would not be applicable retroactively, and wouldn’t offer Netanyahu protection from the current police investigation.
Earlier this year, Amsalem floated another version of his bill that offered the premier immunity for “minor transgressions” that generally hold a sentence of under six months in prison.
However, the proposal was met with widespread criticism, and a statement from the Likud at the time said the legislation “was not coordinated with the prime minister and was made without his knowledge.” The proposed bill never went to the Knesset floor for a vote.