The so-called police recommendations bill, which would bar police from recommending indictment in corruption investigations against public figures, was approved Wednesday morning by the Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee, allowing the legislation to proceed to a final plenary vote next week.
The bill was scheduled to be voted on Tuesday but was held up by the opposition, which lodged thousands of objections to the proposed legislation and stalling it in committee.
Committee chairman David Amsalem — the Likud MK who also authored the bill — restarted deliberations on it early Wednesday, rejecting all of the 1,281 objections presented by the opposition and allowing the 8-5 vote in favor of approving the bill.
A spokesperson for Amsalem told The Times of Israel that the bill is now slated for final plenary votes, which would pass it into law, on Monday.
In its final version, the bill says that in criminal cases that have an accompanying prosecutor — namely high-profile investigations into politicians and public officials — police are barred, upon wrapping up the investigations and handing over the material to prosecutors, from commenting on whether there is an evidential basis for an indictment. However, it also states that the attorney general, state prosecution, or other prosecutors may seek police input on the evidence, should it be deemed necessary.
While earlier versions of the bill sought to impose a one-year jail sentence on leaks from investigators in ongoing cases, the final version merely refers to an existing, but unenforced, clause in the penal code (117) that imposes three years’ imprisonment for leaks.
Amid mounting opposition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that 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 as not to apply to him.
Before the amendment, the bill had widely been seen as an attempt by lawmakers to shield Netanyahu from public fallout should police find sufficient evidence against him to warrant criminal charges.
Opposition lawmakers have pointed out, however, that the Likud-led committee rejected amendments to exclude investigations into all public officials from the bill. The version passed Wednesday states that the law would only not apply to probes into Netanyahu.
The prime minister is under investigation in two separate cases on suspicions he accepted pricey gifts from billionaire benefactors and negotiated a quid-pro-quo deal with a newspaper publisher in a bid for more favorable coverage. He denies the allegations against him.
The bill also faced additional hurdles as one of its main backers, coalition whip David Bitan, is now a key suspect in a massive corruption and organized crime investigation in the Rishon Lezion municipality.