Seeking to split coalition, Yamina floats law banning prosecution of sitting PM
search

Seeking to split coalition, Yamina floats law banning prosecution of sitting PM

Right-wing party’s proposal wouldn’t affect Netanyahu’s current trial but could thwart future probes; Blue and White has vowed to oppose such bills

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (L) of Yamina speaks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting with leaders of right-wing parties at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (L) of Yamina speaks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting with leaders of right-wing parties at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 4, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Seeking to drive a wedge between the coalition’s Likud and Blue and White parties while broadcasting a willingness to work for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu despite being in the opposition, the right-wing Yamina party announced Monday that it had introduced a proposal that would prevent the prosecution of a sitting prime minister, except in serious cases.

The party said the proposed law would prevent situations of the kind currently unfolding for Netanyahu, in which the prime minister has trouble running the affairs of state, while also having to defend himself in court, giving the prosecution an edge.

“Recently, we’ve borne testimony in the most concrete way to the heavy damage caused by investigations against a sitting prime minister to democracy, stability of the ruling powers and public trust in the law enforcement system, which is seen, rightly, as a political actor,” the party said, siding with Netanyahu, whose criminal trial began on Sunday.

Netanyahu, who faces charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, has dismissed the allegations against him as a political witchhunt meant to oust him from power and undermine the will of the voting public.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement before entering a courtroom at the Jerusalem District Court on May 24, 2020, for the start of his corruption trial. Among those alongside him from left are Likud MKs and ministers Gadi Yevarkan, Amir Ohana, Miri Regev, Nir Barkat, Israel Katz, Tzachi Hanegbi, Yoav Gallant and David Amsalem (Yonathan SINDEL / POOL / AFP)

Yamina’s proposal, if passed into law, would not impact Netanyahu’s trial as it deals specifically with opening an investigation against a sitting prime minister, but would prevent him from being made a suspect in any further cases.

The oft-bandied proposal is dubbed the “French Law,” after similar legislation that exists in the namesake country, though in France, it is coupled with a term limit, which analysts say is the only way to keep it from turning into a legislative cover for unbridled law-breaking by a de facto dictator.

Over the past year and a half, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, appointed defense minister and alternate prime minister with the swearing in of the new government last week, has repeatedly denounced efforts by the Likud to pass laws to protect Netanyahu from his legal troubles.

“Anyone who wants to be part of my government will sign a guidelines document that will include a commitment to oppose any such initiative. I call on all party leaders to commit today not to lend a hand to the French Law,” Gantz said as recently as February when he was running against Netanyahu.

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset plenum on May 17, 2020. (Knesset)

Netanyahu, on the other hand, refused to rule out legislation that would provide him immunity from conviction, even after his criminal trial had begun.

Despite having been a key part of Netanyahu’s right-wing religious bloc over the past seven years, Yamina opted to stay out of the unity coalition formed between Likud and Blue and White, claiming that Netanyahu had abandoned the right-wing and pushed them aside.

While the new coalition has agreed not to advance any of its own legislation over the next six months that does not relate to the response to the coronavirus pandemic, parties are not barred from backing legislation proposed by the opposition.

As such, Likud lawmakers are expected to back Yamina’s proposal while Blue and White MKs will attempt to block it.

read more:
comments