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Likud police bill crafted to aid Banjamin Netanyahu over gift inquiries

    Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Kenya on Tuesday
    Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Kenya on Tuesday

    Likud’s pretence that proposals to restrict the Israeli police’s role in investigating public officials will not benefit Benjamin Netanyahu was all but abandoned this week.

    Governing party legislators were pressing their coalition partners to support the bill, with members of the centrist Kulanu party told that failure to pass it could lead to early elections.

    The bill passed its first reading in the Knesset on Monday by 46 votes to 37 with Kulanu’s backing.

    In an unorthodox move and despite opposition protests, it will be fast-tracked through its next stage in the chamber. The law’s second and third readings are scheduled to take place next Monday.

    If successful, it will apply retroactively to the two ongoing police investigations against the prime minister.

    Israel’s attorney general would still decide whether to charge public officials when they are suspected of wrongdoing, but the police’s recommendation over whether to indict would no longer be made public.

    Critics said this would allow suspects more time before their potential indictment is announced.

    In Mr Netanyahu’s case, it could allow the prime minister to call early elections before the attorney-general reaches a decision on whether to indict him.

    With a parliamentary majority for the bill all but certain, the new law could come in to effect in two weeks. But a High Court challenge from petitioners claiming it is both unconstitutional and has been legislated without proper deliberation is certain to follow.

    Mr Netanyahu has been questioned six times under caution by police looking into allegations he accepted gifts from businesspeople and colluded with newspaper publishers. The prime minister is expected to be questioned at least one more time before police wrap up the investigations and hand the case over to Avichai Mandelblit, the attorney general.

    The process is likely to take at least a few more months and many in the Knesset believe Mr Netanyahu will try and pre-empt any decision against him by calling early elections for Spring 2018.

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