Withdrawing police recommendation bill, Likud MK blames ‘violent leftists’

David Amsalem is forced to pull the controversial legislation from Monday’s agenda after PM asks for it to be amended

David Amsalem, chairman of the Internal Affairs Committee, leads a discussion about the 'Recommendations bill,' on December 3, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
David Amsalem, chairman of the Internal Affairs Committee, leads a discussion about the 'Recommendations bill,' on December 3, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Likud lawmaker David Amsalem announced Sunday that he had taken a final debate and vote on the so-called police recommendations bill off Monday’s agenda of the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee that he chairs.

In updating his committee regarding the status of the controversial bill, which forbids police from issuing recommendations for indictment in corruption investigations against public figures, Amsalem blasted opposition lawmakers whom he blamed for stymieing his legislation. “You leftists are always violent. You are allowed everything, the right is forbidden,” he said.

“The important thing is that you’re eliminating [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Amsalem told fellow committee members sarcastically. “Whatever intensifies the hatred (against him).”

“The police conducted a campaign and the prosecution led an opposition that crossed almost all lines,” he added, turning his criticism toward law enforcement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference announcing a new reform for small businesses at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on December 3, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Sunday’s withdrawal of the bill came hours after Netanyahu asked Likud lawmakers to redraft the controversial bill so that it excludes the investigations against him.

Netanyahu said the legislation was “appropriate and necessary,” but that in order to avoid the appearance that it was tailored to protect him from public fallout in his own corruption probes, it would be amended so that it would not apply to him.

Netanyahu’s statement appeared to be an attempt to rescue the flailing measure, which has been at the center of a political maelstrom in recent weeks, with critics charging it is designed to protect Netanyahu from public fallout in two corruption investigations against him.

The bill has faced multiple obstacles.

The Knesset Internal Affairs Committee met Sunday for a marathon session to consider a spate of opposition objections to the latest draft of the bill, the most significant being Kulanu MK Merav Ben-Ari’s amendment delaying the bill’s implementation for three months in order to give police time to conclude their investigations of Netanyahu without the appearance that the bill was meant to hide their findings from the public.

The bill can, in principle, be delayed indefinitely by the filing of hundreds of objections by opposition lawmakers. The fact that the first such objection came from Ben-Ari, an MK who is part of the coalition, suggests it may face unexpected opposition even from within the government.

Likud MKs David Bitan (L) and David Amsalem attend a Knesset committee meeting on September 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The objections filibuster process can only be stopped by the Knesset speaker and Knesset House Committee imposing time limits on the debates, a step taken only when there is broad agreement on a bill’s urgency. It is thought unlikely that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein could impose such limits for the Monday vote.

The legislative maneuvering came after a large anti-corruption rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, calling on Netanyahu to resign. It was one of the largest demonstrations yet against Netanyahu’s lengthy rule.

The bill faced another hurdle Sunday, as one of its key backers, coalition whip MK David Bitan, is now a key suspect in a massive corruption and organized crime investigation in the Rishon Lezion municipality, a year-long probe that became public on Sunday with a wave of arrests of city officials.

While the Knesset’s legal adviser notified lawmakers that all may vote their conscience on the bill, without fear of conflict-of-interest concerns, the sense among lawmakers that the bill pushed so assiduously by Bitan will end up protecting him has shored up the worries of those who already had qualms about the measure.

Kulanu’s chief, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, reiterated Sunday that he would not enforce faction discipline on the bill, and his party’s lawmakers may vote as they please.

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