Could bill barring police involvement in indictments save Netanyahu?

Critics say controversial ‘Recommendations Bill’ that got initial approval is meant to shield Netanyahu, who is under police investigation. Fast track in Knesset could pass new law within days.  

By: World Israel News Staff

The Knesset on Monday approved the first reading of a contentious bill that would bar police from making a recommendation to the Attorney-General’s Office as to whether to indict a suspect.

The first reading of the legislation, known as the ”Recommendations Bill,” passed by a 46 to 37 vote.

The bill also deals with prosecuting those who leak details of investigations to the press. It states that no police recommendations on any case may be made public, and leakers could face a year in prison.

The bill will be returned to the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee, where it will be prepared for its second and third readings.

Prior to the vote, Internal Affairs Committee Chairman Member of Knesset (MK) David Amsalem, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud faction who proposed the draft law, told the Knesset Plenum it was meant to protect some 14,000 Israelis who are investigated by police each year, but against whom no charges are ultimately brought by the prosecution.

“I’m coming from the perspective of the leaks,” Amsalem said. “The goal of the law is to prevent the publication of negative recommendations, after which it becomes evident they were not justified and the cases are closed.”

‘The man’s entire life is ruined’

“Eighty percent of the cases in which the police decide to write a recommendation, saying there is an evidentiary basis [to press charges], are closed by the prosecution. What happens on the way? The man’s entire life is ruined because he’s already [considered] guilty,” Amsalem said.

Opponents to the bill criticized it as a measure to save Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from public disgrace. Netanyahu is currently facing several corruption-related investigations.

MK Micky Rosenthal (Zionist Camp) criticized the bill and said that ”99 percent of the police recommendations are not made public because they are of no interest to anyone. But now the suspects themselves will not be able to receive the material the prosecution receives from the police. This law is a disgrace, all you want is to separate the public from the elected officials.”

Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid slammed the legislation as well. ”There’s a limit to how much people can stand here and lie…. You’re kidding that this isn’t a personal law… This is a law that concerns only a few dozen cases but is actually intended for one person,” he charged.

“This is a personal law that has nothing to do with the good of the general public. The prime minister’s chief of staff sat with them and put together the law so that it would exactly fit the prime minister, because he is scared to death that the Israeli public will find out what the recommendations are,” he added.

‘This law will be stopped’

”If the Recommendations Law passes, Yesh Atid will appeal to the Supreme Court against it,” Lapid asserted. “This law will be stopped, either in this building or in the building across the street.”

MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said “this is a corrupt bill to protect a corrupt prime minister” and criticized the Kulanu parliamentary group for supporting the legislation. “When people will ask one day how a crazy coalition dragged everyone to shameful laws, you will have to ask yourselves where you were,” she told Kulanu lawmakers.

MK Yehuda Glick (Likud) expressed support for the bill, telling the opposition, “I am not ashamed of criticizing the prime minister when it’s necessary, but just as you criticize the law, you should be open to criticism of yourselves. What is this? What happened to innocent until proven guilty?”

Coalition chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) said at the conclusion of the debate: ”I heard the word corruption 1,000 times and that the prime minister is corrupt. That’s exactly the point, you are not interested in the results of the investigation. For you the very fact that there is an investigation means he is guilty. You do not care what the truth is. You want to discredit and change public opinion, and this law is needed just for that. You are taking advantage of an investigation that has nothing in it other than to dismiss a prime minister, and that is a kind of corruption.”