Israeli Justice Minister Backs Bill to Block Police Investigations Into Serving Prime Ministers

As Benjamin Netanyahu is questioned by police, Ayelet Shaked says she wants to improve the country’s governance.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked walks to the weekly cabinet meeting, October 20, 2016.
Marc Israel Sellem

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Monday she supports a bill to prevent a criminal investigation into a prime minister still in office.

On Monday evening, police investigators questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about suspicions of graft at his official residence in Jerusalem.

Shaked told Radio Darom that her stance was based on her goal to improve Israel’s standards of governance. The bill, sponsored by MK David Amsalem (Likud), is informally known as the French Law because in France the president may not be investigated while in office, Shaked said.

“In principle, the prime minister must be like any other person,” she added. “There must not be a difference, but in order to let him run the country’s affairs properly, it’s possible to consider” the bill.

Amsalem, the chairman of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, said a few months ago he would sponsor such a bill for crimes that carry sentences of up to six months in prison.

On his Facebook page, Amsalem noted that in recent times “there has not been a single prime minister who has not been busy with investigations.”

This is not the first attempt to promote a bill granting the prime minister temporary immunity from investigation and prosecution. In 2011, the Netanyahu government backed a bill sponsored by then-MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima). The bill would have blocked the police from investigating a sitting prime minister for crimes committed before he took office.