Opposition Says Bill Barring State Appeals in Graft Cases Tailored for Netanyahu

The coalition whip announced he would submit a bill to prohibit the prosecution from appealing verdicts in crimes punishable by less than 10 years in prison

Benjamin Netanyahu and David Amsalem at Likud meeting, May 2018.
Emil Salman

Coalition chairman MK David Amsalem (Likud) announced Wednesday he would advance a bill in the Knesset that would prohibit the prosecution from appealing verdicts in crimes punishable by less than 10 years in prison, including property offenses, bribery, fraud and breach of trust. According to Amsalem, “A moral state doesn’t have to persecute a citizen who has received a sentence too light for its taste.”

The opposition condemned the proposal, saying the move was meant to intimidate the prosecution and to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deal with the investigations against him.

Under the proposal, which is an amendment to the Basic Law on the Judiciary, the State Prosecutor’s Office can appeal to the court in special cases to obtain permission to appeal a verdict.

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The bill’s explanatory notes say that the state has much greater power than the defendant in terms of resources and authority and its chances of winning an appeal are higher than the defendant’s chances of prevailing. “According to empirical studies conducted in Israel, the prosecution has control over the criminal procedure and the chances of the state succeeding in a criminal appeal are very high compared to the chances of the defendant,” it says. “Accordingly, conviction rates in Israel are particularly high.”

“This is another personalized law meant to serve the prime minister,” said MK Karin Alharar (Yesh Atid). “It’s unfortunate that instead of thinking about legislation that would regulate rights for the general public, people are working very hard to create laws that benefit elected officials, Netanyahu in particular. This bill is an embarrassment to the legislature and lacks any legal logic or public benefit,” she added.

Zionist Union whip MK Yoel Hasson, said, “David Amsalem is Netanyahu’s law tailor. He is a personal emissary who lies on the fence for the sake of Netanyahu’s continued evasion of a decision in his legal affairs. That’s not how an elected official acts. Amsalem is just an example of a government that takes care of itself and needs to be sent home.”

Meretz chairman MK Tamar Zandberg added, “After they finished the round against the High Court of Justice, they came back for another round about the police. This coalition’s obsessive preoccupation with the legal authorities to protect a prime minister immersed in investigations is a mark of Cain for Israeli democracy. For this political purpose they are prepared to pass a law that restricts the prosecution from appealing in [cases involving] serious offenses like sexual harassment.”

The bill is not the first proposal promoted by Amsalem that deals with investigations involving Netanyahu.

Amsalem with another key Likud Knesset member, David Bitan, worked on a bill last year that would have prevented the police from publicizing their recommendations about indicting public figures following the prime minister's corruption scandals. Miki Zohar (Likud) later admitted the so-called police silencing bill was meant to protect Netanyahu.