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Likud MK booted from panel after opposing police recommendations bill

Benny Begin ousted after saying proposed legislation must not apply to Netanyahu’s ongoing graft investigations

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Likud Knesset member Benny Begin (benter) attends a Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee meeting on June 20, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Likud Knesset member Benny Begin (benter) attends a Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee meeting on June 20, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Maverick Likud MK Benny Begin was kicked off the Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee on Wednesday after expressing opposition to a bill that would ban police from informing prosecutors whether there were grounds for indictment upon wrapping up their investigations.

Earlier in the day, Begin told the committee the bill must only apply to future cases, excluding the ongoing graft investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The bill has been seen as an attempt by Likud lawmakers to shield Netanyahu from the public fallout should police find sufficient evidence to warrant criminal charges by prosecutors.

Begin, the son of the late prime minister Menachem Begin, said he believed the proposed legislation stemmed from “good intentions,” namely to avoid tarnishing the reputations of Israelis investigated by police who are ultimately let off by prosecutors without charge. But it cannot be extended to open cases, he added.

The bill would jail investigators who issue recommendations for indictment as well as police officials who leak information from ongoing investigations to the press. An earlier clause, which would have jailed journalists for publishing that information, has been excised. Currently, police do not explicitly recommend indictments but issue a summary outlining whether there is an evidential basis for charges.

House Committee chairman Yoav Kisch (Likud) later on Wednesday informed the plenum that Begin had been replaced on the panel by fellow Likud MK David Bitan. Begin said his ouster was against his will.

The Internal Affairs Committee is headed by Likud MK David Amsalem, who also sponsored the bill and was expected to fast-track the legislation. The coalition remained divided as of Wednesday as to whether the bill could apply to existing cases, with Kulanu MK Roy Folkman opposing its retroactive application during the committee session.

This was not the first time the governing Likud party reshuffled its committees simply to rid itself of Begin’s opposition. Earlier this year, a special committee was formed to debate the so-called Jewish state bill, which Begin has come out against. Last year, Begin was the sole coalition lawmaker to vote against the Regulation Bill to legalize West Bank outposts. For that legislation as well, the coalition formed a special panel to retain a coalition majority in the committee.

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