Justice minister derides police recommendation bill as ‘waste of energy’

Justice minister derides police recommendation bill as ‘waste of energy’

Speaking in Washington, Ayelet Shaked asserts the public sought more ideological reforms when it voted in a right-wing government

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks during a ceremony in Jerusalem, November 6, 2017. (Flash90)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks during a ceremony in Jerusalem, November 6, 2017. (Flash90)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Saturday lamented the legislative advancement of a controversial bill that seeks to limit police recommendations to prosecutors on filing indictments, saying the coalition was wasting its efforts on the legislation instead of working on more fundamental reforms that its voters expect from a right-wing government.

Shaked spoke at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum in Washington, as the Knesset was readying itself for a second and third reading of the so-called police “recommendations” law.

A Hebrew translation of her comments at the annual summit, which focuses on ties between Israel and the US, was provided in a statement by a spokesperson from Shaked’s religious nationalist Jewish Home party.

The minister spoke hours after tens of thousands of protesters took part in an anti-corruption demonstration in Tel Aviv against the bill, which critics say is intended to shield Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a pair of graft probes.

Approved by the Knesset last Monday in its first reading, the bill would bar police investigators from informing prosecutors whether they believe there are grounds for indictment and from publicizing information or leaking conclusions to the media.

Critics say the bill is meant to shield Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, currently suspected in two separate corruption probes, though it’s not clear if the bill will apply to him.

Shaked admitted the measure was reasonable, but said her right-wing government had not been put in office for that type of legislation but rather more “ideological” bills, accusing the lawmakers pushing the proposal of wasting the government’s energy.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and the Israel Police are all opposed to the legislation. Shaked has in the past openly voiced her opposition to the bill but said she will support it due to coalition agreements.

Committee meetings to finalize the bill have been scheduled for Sunday and Monday. Though the bill was expected to be brought to its final readings on Monday night, last Wednesday coalition chairman MK David Bitan, a strong proponent of the legislation, indicated it could be delayed due to some coalition lawmakers being abroad for the Saban Forum.

The Kulanu party filed its first objection to the bill Sunday morning, with MK Merav Ben-Ari proposing an amendment that would delay its going into force by three months in order to allow police to finish their investigations into the corruption allegations surrounding Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is under investigation on suspicions he accepted pricey gifts from billionaire benefactors and negotiated an quid-pro-quo deal with a newspaper publisher in a bid for more favorable coverage. He denies the allegations against him.

The US Embassy building in Tel Aviv, December 28, 2016. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

Shaked also said she trusted that US President Donald Trump would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a measure stridently opposed by the Palestinians and the Arab world.

As of Saturday night, Trump had not signed a waiver delaying the move of the embassy by another six months, and he has only until Monday to do so. A stream of media reports in recent days have indicated that the president intends to declare in a speech within days that he considers Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, and that he may say he is instructing his team to prepare to move the embassy.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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