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Israeli lawmakers up in arms over bill that would shield PM from police probes

La Knesset, ici en séance le 14 mai 2015 à Jérusalem, a voté en faveur d'une limitation des appels à la prière des mosquées
Netanyahu ally threatens to dismantle coalition to see so-called 'French bill' passed

Firey deabte surrounding proposed legislation that would sheild a sitting prime minister from police invesigations has Israeli lawmakers up in arms.

Dubbed "the French bill", on the grounds that similar laws exist in France where the President may not be prosecuted during his term (except in the case of high treason), the bill would amend Israel's Basic Laws, which outline relations between the state's authorities, to prohibit police from investigating a sitting prime minister for fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

The proposal, made by Likud party lawmaker MK David Amsalem, has been pushed by allies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who himself is currently embroiled in a web of corruption probes.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has repeatedly voiced his opposition to the bill, saying on Tuesday that the legislation "does significant damage to the rule of law, the principle of equality before the law and the public's confidence."

"The role of prime minister, the highest in the land, will become sanctuary for felons," he said of the bill.

Debate surrounding the bill, which is due to come up for approval by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation soon, reached new heights Monday after powerful Netanyahu ally David Bitan threatening to "dismantle the coalition" in order to see it passed.

Abir Sultan (POOL/AFP)

“If we have to break up the coalition, that’s what will happen,” Bitan said Monday. “I’m telling you, Likud will not give up on this bill.”

Bitan himself is under police investigation on suspicion of bribe-taking before he entered the Knesset, the Haaretz daily reported Tuesday.

Bitan's remarks came after Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, whose Kulanu party sits in Netanyahu's ruling coalition government, said that he would let his party's Knesset members vote as they wished on the bill.

Though the bill would not apply retroactively and would therefore not exempt Netanyahu from ongoing investigations against him, critics have said the bill undermines the rule of law and places the prime minister above the law.


Member of the opposition and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid slammed the bill during the opening of the Knesset's winter session on Monday, accusing the ruling coalition of dedication more debate to the subject than to the matters affecting the people of Israel.

"What is the prime minister advancing and what is his coalition arguing about? The minimum wage? Education? Of course not. The only thing that is interests them is to quickly pass the bill so the prime minister can’t be investigated," Lapid said.

"There is nothing French about this bill. Let’s call it by its real name, 'The Benjamin Netanyahu Bill,' which is intended to stop his investigations," he added.

The day of back and forth attacks was capped off by President Reuven Rivlin who delivered an impassioned address criticizing the government for over-politicizing the judicial system, the media, and other sectors of society.

Rivlin asserted that this over-politicization of institutions could destroy Israeli statehood and its basic institutions.



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