Likud MK vows to advance delayed PM immunity bill

Likud MK vows to advance delayed PM immunity bill

New effort comes despite opposition from Jewish Home party to bill that would prevent sitting prime ministers from facing corruption probes

Likud MK David Amsalem leads the Interior Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on July 11, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK David Amsalem leads the Interior Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on July 11, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A Likud lawmaker said Saturday that the party would be pushing ahead with the the so-called “French Bill” granting immunity to serving prime ministers from corruption investigations until their terms are ended, despite opposition from the Jewish Home coalition partners.

The Jewish Home party announced on Wednesday that it would oppose the bill and Hebrew media reports said a vote on the immunity bill would subsequently be delayed by a month.

But MK David Amsalem, who wrote the bill, told Channel 2 it was going ahead. “The French law will pass,” he said.

“I have personal coordinated it with the finance minister; the law will pass,” he said, referring to Moshe Kahlon of the Kulanu party, a key coalition member, who was thought to be opposed to the bill.

Likud sources told Channel 2 that the bill would be brought for an initial vote on Sunday, because the Jewish Home party had not complied with agreements reached between the parties.

Nevertheless, the Jewish Home party was adamant there would be no vote Sunday.

“Because this is a basic law, it can’t advance without our support,” the party said in a statement to Channel 10. “There was a clear agreement that the bill would not come up now, and so, tomorrow it will also not pass.”

The bill is intended to prevent sitting prime ministers from having to deal with investigations into their affairs during their terms, leaving them able to focus on the business of governing the country.

The bill excludes from its protections any investigation already launched, and so would not protect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from ongoing probes into him.

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

Critics, including Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and many lawmakers, have said the measure would place prime ministers above the law for years at a time, making them more likely to act unethically while they occupy the highest office in Israel’s government.

According to a letter sent Wednesday from Jewish Home’s Knesset faction chair, MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, to Likud’s coalition chair MK David Bitan, Jewish Home’s opposition to the bill follows a “substantive and detailed discussion” in the party’s faction meeting on Monday.

“The discussion revealed significant disagreements between members of the faction, and no agreement was reached” within the party.

In light of that disagreement, Jewish Home decided to formally oppose the bill’s passage, Moalem-Refaeli writes.

Jewish Home MK Shuli Mualem attends a party meeting in the Knesset, January 23, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

According to the coalition agreements that underpin the current ruling government, no changes to Israel’s semi-constitutional Basic Laws can be passed without the agreement of all six coalition parties, giving each coalition partner a veto over such bills. Amsalem’s bill is just such an amendment to the Basic Law: The Government.

On Sunday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) postponed a vote on the bill in the powerful Ministerial Committee for Legislation. In response, coalition chair Bitan, a staunch Netanyahu ally, reportedly threatened to freeze all government legislation until the bill is passed by the committee.

The proposed legislation comes as Netanyahu is being investigated in two corruption cases. The prime minister denies all wrongdoing.

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