Netanyahu Says 'Not Interested' in Bill to Bar Investigations of Sitting Prime Minister

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the Knesset.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the Knesset, Oct. 24, 2017.Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that he is not interested in proposed legislation that would bar criminal investigations of a serving prime minister.

"I state here clearly that I am not interested in any law relating to investigations currently being conducted connected to me or that are currently being conducted that are not connected to me," Netanyahu said.

The pending bill, which was introduced by Likud Knesset member David Amsalem, would bar criminal investigations against a sitting prime minister until the prime minister leaves office. The bill would not, however, prevent the criminal investigation of a prime minister on sexual offenses, violence or security or drug-related infractions.

A demand by coalition whip David Bitan that proposed legislation on the subject be brought to vote Sunday by a ministerial panel led to a confrontation among the parties in the governing coalition. Bitan insisted that, as long as there was no consensus among coalition partners on the legislation, no other bills would be voted on in the coalition. Sources on Ministerial Committee for Legislation said, however, that private members' bills were still salted to be voted on while Likud members of the committee would be free to can cast a veto if they desired.

Netanyahu is under investigation in two cases, one over gifts that he and his family are said to have received from prominent business figures and the other regarding conversations between Netanyahu and the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily over an alleged plan to provide the prime minister more favorable media coverage in exchange for curbs on Yedioth's major competitor, Israel Hayom. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

Sources in Habayit Hayehudi were highly critical of Bitan, saying that an agreement had already been struck deferring the legislation for a month on the investigation of a prime minister. For his part last week, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said if passed, the bill would do serious harm to the rule of law.

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