Netanyahu Investigation: Lawmakers Push Bill to Block Police From Probing Politicians

Premier must be totally devoted to his job, without distractions, explains David Amsalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017.
RONEN ZVULUN/AP

Under the shadow of the police probes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Ministerial Committee on Legislation is expected to decide Sunday whether to support a bill that would forbid police from investigating incumbent politicians - including the prime minister.

The news comes amid an ongoing police investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over alleged negotiations he held with media mogul Arnon Mozes for favorable coverage.

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In their alleged discussions, Netanyahu reportedly made explicit promises to advance legislation that would help Mozes' Yedioth Ahronoth by muzzling the freebie Israel Hayom, owned by American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

The bill is sponsored by Knesset Interior Committee Chairman David Amsalem (Likud), who is responsible for overseeing the police on behalf of the Knesset.

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

Opposition MKs are arguing that Amsalem is exploiting his position to spook the detectives dealing with Netanyahu’s cases. Amsalem, however, argues that the bill is being submitted on principle and it isn’t meant to help Netanyahu evade questioning; in fact, he added a clause to the bill stating that it will not apply to investigations begun before the law goes into effect.

The bill is an amendment to the Basic Law on the Government, and states, “The attorney general will not allow a sitting prime minister to be questioned under caution [i.e., as a suspect], except for sex crimes, violence, security or drug offenses, unless postponing the investigation could harm security or cause significant economic damage.”

Another section of the bill states that there will be no statute of limitations on any alleged violation whose investigation was postponed under these circumstances; such an investigation can commence immediately after the prime minister completes his term.

“The position of prime minister of Israel is one of the most complex jobs there is,” the bill reads. “He must make fateful decisions on issues that affect the entire public, including on diplomatic, security, economic and social matters. As such, he must be totally devoted to dealing with these issues.

“In recent years there have been a number of instances in which prime ministers were burdened with investigations launched against them for various violations, sometimes for matters that took place before they took office,” Amsalem explained in the bill, adding, “To avoid this, it is proposed that, as a rule, a prime minister will not be questioned under caution during the course of his term.”