The Ultimate Threat Netanyahu’s People Used to Pass the Bill Silencing the Police

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Netanyahu and Bitan at the Knesset, November 20, 2017.
Netanyahu and Bitan at the Knesset, November 20, 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The ruling Likud party has told coalition partner Kulanu that it will seek a new election if Kulanu legislators don’t support the version of a bill that bars the police from making recommendations to prosecutors after an investigation into a public official, political sources said Tuesday.

Such a bill, which on Monday the Knesset passed in the first of three votes, would greatly benefit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently being investigated amid corruption allegations.

The sources described angry discussions Tuesday between associates of Kulanu chief Moshe Kahlon and associates of Netanyahu, including Coalition Chairman David Bitan and the bill’s sponsor, MK David Amsalem (Likud).

Kahlon’s people were told that for Netanyahu the bill was as “critical and important” as his opposition to the so-called Israel Hayom bill that indirectly got the Knesset dissolved in December 2014 and led to an early election three months later.

Netanyahu broke up that governing coalition citing “a lack of governability” after the Israel Hayom bill was approved in a preliminary vote in the Knesset, with the support of coalition parties.

That bill would have outlawed the distribution of free newspapers like Israel Hayom, the Sheldon Adelson-owned daily long regarded as Netanyahu’s mouthpiece.

Later, Netanyahu admitted that the preliminary approval of the bill against his wishes led him to seek the early election.

The floor leader of Finance Minister Kahlon’s Kulanu party, Roy Folkman, told Haaretz on Tuesday that in the Likud-Kulanu discussions, the comparison between the urgency of the police bill and the Israel Hayom bill for Netanyahu was made more than once.

The police bill could go into effect in as little as two weeks.

Amsalem, who chairs the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee that is debating the legislation, has scheduled a hearing on the bill for Thursday, with the aim of having it ready for a second and third vote Monday. If it passes, it goes to President Reuven Rivlin 10 days later before being published in the government gazette and going into effect.

The version of the bill that was approved Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation refers to three types of investigations and distinguishes between investigations into public figures and other types of investigations.

In cases that are already open, like those in which Netanyahu has been questioned, the bill states that the police would not submit a summary of an investigation to the prosecution, though the attorney general could ask for one.

In addition, during sensitive investigations accompanied throughout by a state prosecutor, the police could provide a summary, but not about the quality of the evidence.

The bill, however, does not forbid detectives from giving a verbal opinion to Justice Ministry officials or to the media.

In investigations not monitored by a state prosecutor – most investigations – the police could express their position on the quality of the evidence. In all cases, the bill forbids the publishing of the police’s written summaries.

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