Immunity bill for prime minister to face key vote
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Immunity bill for prime minister to face key vote

Amid Netanyahu graft probes, bill would protect sitting premiers from similar investigations — but would not apply to the PM’s current troubles

Likud MK David Amsalem, chairman of the Interior Affairs Committee, left, and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, are seen during a committee meeting at the Knesset, July 11, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK David Amsalem, chairman of the Interior Affairs Committee, left, and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, are seen during a committee meeting at the Knesset, July 11, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A committee of cabinet ministers is set to vote to advance a bill that would give serving prime ministers immunity from criminal prosecution for the duration of their terms.

The legislation, proposed by Likud MK David Amsalem, would allow a sitting prime minister to serve out the remainder of his or her term before police would be able to open an investigation into suspected wrongdoing. It would not offer protection from suspected offenses related to national security, sex crimes, violence or drugs, but would protect premiers from corruption probes until their term is concluded.

Amsalem’s bill was prompted by current police investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is a suspect in two cases of alleged corruption and is tied to a third case.

According to a Channel 2 report Monday, coalition lawmakers are still debating the precise list of crimes that would trigger enforcement proceedings against a sitting prime minister.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presides over a Likud faction meeting in the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, outside Jerusalem, on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The bill is slated to be debated and possibly voted on at next Sunday’s meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, a powerful body that has the power to grant government backing — and thus usually an all-but-assured parliamentary majority — to a bill.

The bill would amend Israel’s Basic Laws in such a way as to prohibit police from investigating an incumbent premier for fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

It would likely not help Netanyahu, however, as it specifies that it would not apply to investigations already open when the new law goes into force.

On Saturday night, Channel 2 reported that police were deepening their investigations into the actions of the prime minister and that he will be summoned for questioning in the two investigations against him, cases 1000 and 2000, in the coming two weeks.

Case 1000 relates to allegations that Netanyahu and his wife Sara received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Investigators are also expected to set a date for Netanyahu to provide testimony as a witness in Case 3000, which involves suspected corruption by several associates of the prime minister in the sale of German submarines to Israel, the report said. Netanyahu is not a suspect in the submarines case.

In the wake of the report, Netanyahu, who denies any wrongdoing, suggested Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich had leaked the details to the television station. The comments prompted an unusual public spat between police and the prime minister.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Sunday that he has asked the attorney general to open an investigation into the leaks.

Erdan said that while he has “full confidence” in Alsheich, the sensitivity of the issue “requires an investigation to determine who is trying to damage the prime minister and leaking to the media.”​​

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