Netanyahu's Government Bars Police From Recommending Charges Against Netanyahu

Fast-tracking the new bill that would protect the prime minister, who is under two investigations for corruption, Knesset approves it in first vote

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017. Gali Tibbon/AP

The Knesset passed in it first reading on Monday evening a bill barring police from saying whether charges should be filed against public officials, with 46 MKs voting in favor of the "recommendations law" versus the 36 who voted against it.

Should the bill pass two more upcoming readings, it would apply retroactively to include the two investigations currently underway against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Critics deride the bill, which has sparked controversy in the Knesset and outside of it, as the "anti-police law."

Its newest version would give the attorney general  the option of taking the police's recommendation over an indictment into consideration, while ensuring that recommendation would not be made public.

The bill will now return to the Interior and Environment Committee to prepare it for the two final votes. The coalition is fast-tracking the legislation and the bill could become law by the end of the month. 

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The compromise was formulated with members of Netanyahu's Likud party, some of whom had previously objected to the fact that the bill would bar police from submitting recommendations in ongoing investigations, including that of the prime minister.

Netanyahu is currently the subject of two separate police investigations into allegations of corruption.

Backlash to the compromise, and the bill itself, was swift. Yair Lapid, head of the opposition Yesh Atid party, who is considered to be Netanyahu's main rival for power whenever elections are next held, called the law "The Netanyahu Law."

He charged that the law was made to order legislation for Netanyahu as part of his effort to survive the investigations against him. “It’s a law made for a single person,” he said.

Lapid continued to blast the "recommendations law" at the Knesset later on Monday, declaring that should it be passed, his party will file a petition against it to the Supreme Court of Justice. "This law will be stopped in this building [the Knesset] or in the building across from it [the Supreme Court]," the Yesh Atid chairman said. 

Ehud Barak, a former prime minister, also mocked Netanyahu. On Twitter, Barak, who had served as Netanyahu's defense minister, wrote that the law would "tighten the tie around Bibi's neck," using the prime minister's nickname. "The attorney general would never dare rely on such a law. What would Bibi have done if Olmert had tried to pass a law like this? Where is the opposition in the streets?"

Condemnation was also swift from Avi Gabbay, head of the Zionist Union Faction. He said that the government coalition members were acting like "low-level gang members" who were sent in to break up investigations and then "clean up crime scenes."