Israeli Lawmaker Pushes Bill Requiring Knesset Approval Before Netanyahu Is Put on Trial

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FILE Photo: MK Miki Zohar with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
FILE Photo: MK Miki Zohar with Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuCredit: Olivier Fitouss

Likud Knesset member Miki Zohar submitted a bill a few days ago that could make it much harder to put Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on trial if the attorney general should decide to file an indictment against him.

The proposal sponsored by Zohar, chairman of the Knesset House Committee, is in its preliminary stages and essentially calls for Knesset approval before an indictment is filed. As things stand today, an MK who has been formally charged with an offense has 30 days to ask the plenum to vote and grant him immunity from prosecution.

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The legislation would require approval by the House Committee to lift immunity before an indictment is even filed by the attorney general, after which the committee decision would be sent on for debate in the full Knesset. Such a change in protocol might also allow other MKs who are now under criminal investigation – among them Likudniks MK David Bitan and Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Haim Katz – to evade a trial.

The proposal would enable Netanyahu to enlist a majority of MKs to prevent the filing of an indictment against him, by dint of support from the "automatic" majority of the coalition, if its members agree to go along with the move.

Zohar’s bill represents growing awareness among Likud MKs that although some of the suspicions against Netanyahu may be well founded, an indictment will likely only be handed down for relatively minor crimes.

“In my humble opinion, it is preferable for an indictment over trivial matters – especially when it is spiteful and unfair, and comes from media or political pressure levelled at an elected representative – to be decided by the public only,” said Zohar.

He added that his proposal was a matter of principle, was submitted solely by him, is "intended to protect all Knesset members from the right and left, and [Netanyahu] has no connection whatsoever to this important initiative.”

The bill would involve reverting to the situation that existed before 2005, when it was only possible to indict a MK after the House Committee and the full Knesset voted to remove his or her parliamentary immunity. The legislation was amended at the time and the attorney general was given the authority to file such an indictment, but the MK in question was allowed to submit a request within 30 days to hold a vote approving immunity from prosecution.

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