Likud Lawmaker Drafts Bill to Shield Prime Minister From Probes of Minor Offenses

Law would block investigation of sitting premier for misdemeanors punishable by six months or less in prison.

MK David Amsalem in a Knesset committee meeting, July 2016.
Emil Salman

Likud Knesset member David Amsalem is proposing a law that would grant immunity from investigation of a serving prime minister for criminal offenses carrying a punishment of up to six months in prison. The bill cannot be formally submitted until the Knesset reconvenes, in late October.

“For the past 30 years, there hasn’t been a single prime minister who wasn’t busy with investigations,” Amsalem, who is the chairman of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, wrote on his Facebook page. “The prime minister holds the most important job in Israel. He must make fateful decisions that impact the entire public ... [and] cannot be preoccupied by investigations practically every day.”

The post went on to say that the bill would stop the clock on the statute of limitations in the event its provisions are invoked to postpone the investigation of allegations of more-serious offenses.

Amsalem stressed that the timing of his proposal had nothing to do with current criminal allegations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying: “The timing of the bill is irrelevant. In our country at any given moment a covert investigation is going on against a prime minister. I suggest that whoever raises this question let me know when there is a window of time when there is no investigation happening and I will be happy to submit the bill then, so no one will try to find other motives or interests behind it.”

This isn't the first time legislation to block the investigation of a sitting prime minister. In 2011 Netanyahu's government supported a bill put forward by then-MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima), which would have prevented the police from investigating alleged offences committed by the prime minister before he took office. All the ministers in the Ministerial Legislation Committee supported the bill, including the then-Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman. This bill came from Kadima, whose two prime ministers, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, both served as prime ministers while under investigation by the police.