Opposition party, NGO petition High Court against ‘recommendations law’
Legislation to muzzle cops narrowly approved overnight

Opposition party, NGO petition High Court against ‘recommendations law’

Centrist Yesh Atid decries the law it says is meant to protect crooked elected officials; 'We cannot allow Israeli democracy to corrupt itself'

Knesset Member Yair Lapid reacts during a marathon plenary session in the Knesset regarding the "Recommendations Bill" on December 27, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Knesset Member Yair Lapid reacts during a marathon plenary session in the Knesset regarding the "Recommendations Bill" on December 27, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Yesh Atid party and a non-governmental organization filed High Court petitions Thursday against the so-called police recommendations legislation, which the Knesset passed into law hours earlier.

The controversial legislation, which will not apply to the two ongoing corruption cases into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was approved in its second and third readings with 59 lawmakers in favor and 54 opposed in the early hours of the morning.

The law prevents police, upon wrapping up their investigations and handing over the files to prosecutors, from commenting on whether there is an evidentiary basis for indictment. It will apply only to probes of public officials and other high-profile cases.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid had warned during a marathon filibuster against the bill that his party would take the legal action if the law was passed.

Explaining the decision to follow through with the threat, Yesh Atid MK Karine Elharrar said the recommendations law “was born in sin.”

Yesh Atid MK Karine Elharrar leads a State Control Committee meeting on March 08, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“We cannot allow Israeli democracy to corrupt itself with a law that violates the principle of equality; a law whose only purpose is to intimidate the police and law enforcement agencies,” she said, speaking outside the court.

The party was joined by the Movement for Quality Government in filing the petition.

Following the threat, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked lambasted the opposition party for disrespecting the legislative body. “When you stand here and say that after you fail to bring down the law you will appeal to the High Court of Justice, you humiliate the Knesset and show that you don’t understand anything about constitutional law.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein warned that he would prevent the opposition from holding future filibusterers if Lapid went through with the legal measure.

Opposition members blasted the vote and vowed to continue fighting the law.

“The 27th of December is a black day in the annals of the struggle against crime and corruption,” tweeted Avi Gabbay, head of the Zionist Union faction. “A [future] government under me will annul the recommendations law.”

Coalition members congratulate MK David Amsalem after the passing of the “Recommendations” Law that he sponsored on December 27, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“Tonight, the Knesset passed an amoral law that hopelessly distorts the principles of justice and transparency,” Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai said in a statement. “The purpose of this law is to neuter the Israel Police’s investigations… It may be on the books but it will never be implemented.”

Critics of the new law say it is designed to protect corrupt politicians from public backlash, to muzzle investigators, and to curb police authority. Proponents argue that police recommendations — once leaked to the media — cause irreparable damage to suspects’ reputations and only rarely result in an indictment by prosecutors.

The law was passed as police gear up to issue recommendations on Netanyahu’s two corruption cases. The prime minister is suspected of accepting pricey gifts from billionaire benefactors and of cutting an alleged quid-pro-quo with a newspaper publisher for more favorable coverage. The prime minister denies wrongdoing in both cases.

The law will not apply to open cases, including the ongoing investigations into Netanyahu, a graft probe into former coalition whip David Bitan, and investigations involving Welfare Minister Haim Katz (Likud) and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas).

Committee meetings in the Knesset on Tuesday and Wednesday were canceled due to the filibuster.

Opposition lawmakers held up the final votes with impassioned tirades against the legislation to the mostly empty plenum, and with gimmicks.

The Zionist Union’s Yoel Hasson, the opposition whip, spent three hours at the podium overnight Monday reading WhatsApp messages from his constituents after crowdsourcing objections to the bill.

Another Zionist Union MK, Eitan Cabel, read out — and sang out — portions from the Bible’s Book of Lamentations on the destruction of ancient Jerusalem. Later, he somewhat undercut that sense of gravity when he exchanged thoughts on Saturday’s El Clasico soccer match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona with MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List).

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