Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Likud’s ‘immunity law’ threatens to paralyse Netanyahu government

Israel coalition partners reported to be in talks over law that would suspend police investigations

    Benjamin Netanyahu with Likud MK David Bitan
    Benjamin Netanyahu with Likud MK David Bitan Flash 90

    A proposed law that would grant serving prime ministers immunity from police investigations overshadowed this week’s opening of Israel’s parliament and threatened to paralyse the coalition.

    The Likud members who tabled the law denied that its intention was to shield Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is the subject of a long-running police investigation.

    But critics said it was being pushed to help him evade corruption charges and “delegitimise” the investigations ongoing against him.

    David Amsalem — the Likud MK who proposed the law — and David Bitan, the chief whip and coalition chairman, are trying to bring it to a vote in the Knesset. 

    They said police investigations had prevented the last four prime ministers —  Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Mr Netanyahu — from governing effectively and that it would make more sense to suspend investigations until the subject vacated his or her office.

    But it was not clear whether the law would apply only to new investigations or also suspend existing ones, stoking speculation that it is intended for Mr Netanyahu’s benefit.

    Likud planned to present the law proposal to a committee that includes its coalition partners  on Sunday. 

    But Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, from the Jewish Home party, demanded the immunity law was removed from the agenda, arguing that legislation on constitutional matters cannot be rushed.

    There was also resistance from other parties in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition, including the centrist Kulanu. 

    Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria called it “a blow to the rule of law. It puts the prime minister above the law and sends a message to the public legitimising corruption.”

    Mr Bitan has threatened even early elections if they continue to refuse, but Likud insiders speaking to the JC have admitted that the prime minister will not risk his coalition over the law. 

    The Likud sources said they were exploring the possibility of an agreement with Jewish Home with a view to presenting the proposal again in a few weeks.

    Mr Netanyahu has not taken a public position, but is said to be aware that public opposition is mounting.

    In a poll published this week 63 percent said they opposed the immunity law. 

    The proposal came as Israel’s president used his speech opening the Knesset’s winter session to indirectly criticise the prime minister.

    President Reuven Rivlin attacked “the attempt to threaten the court, to weaken it as an institution” and warned of a situation where “majority rule is the sole ruler.” 

    With not mentioning Mr Netanyahu by name, it was clear to all present that Mr Rivlin was criticising him when he said that “governance is navigating the ship, not making sure that every sailor on board is in your own image. Leadership in a democratic state is the art of creating consensus, not coercion.”

Analysis

Netanyahu luxury gifts police verdict imminent

Anshel Pfeffer

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Netanyahu luxury gifts police verdict imminent
Israel

Israel scales back African migrant deportations

Anshel Pfeffer

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Israel scales back African migrant deportations
Analysis

Were the Israelis props in Mike Pence's visit?

Anshel Pfeffer

Friday, January 26, 2018

Were the Israelis props in Mike Pence's visit?
Analysis

Clashes with Israel's neighbours likelier

Anshel Pfeffer

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Clashes with Israel's neighbours likelier
World

Israelis shore up Palestinians against hate

Anshel Pfeffer

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Israelis shore up Palestinians against hate
Israel

Israel's Shabbat shopping battle moves to Ashdod

Anshel Pfeffer

Friday, January 26, 2018

Israel's Shabbat shopping battle moves to Ashdod
World

Israeli man killed in West Bank stabbing

Anshel Pfeffer

Monday, February 5, 2018

Israeli man killed in West Bank stabbing
World

Israel and Poland to work on Holocaust law

Anshel Pfeffer

Monday, January 29, 2018

Israel and Poland to work on Holocaust law
Analysis

Jordan's precarious balancing act with Israel

Anshel Pfeffer

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Jordan's precarious balancing act with Israel