Thursday, September 20, 2018

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing to pass a law that would make prime ministers immune from certain criminal investigations during their terms.

Mr Netanyahu and his family are being investigated by police for fraud and corruption.

As reported by Haaretz, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation will debate the immunity bill this weekend, after which it will become clearer as to whether the bill will become law.

Although previous similar bills have been voted down under his predecessors, Mr Netanyahu’s senior ministers in his Likud party agree with the bill, including his justice minister, Ayelet Shaked. It was first proposed last year by his minister of parliament, David Amsalem.

The debate on the bill, which is still unclear in terms of its wording and the proposed scope of curtailing police investigation, comes just two months after the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, turned state’s witness to avoid jail time after he was himself accused of fraud.

It also comes amid heightened tensions and allegations surrounding Mr Netanyahu.

One case, named File 1000, accuses the leader and his family of improperly accepting expensive gifts from rich donors, including cigars and champagne from the Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

File 2000 regards whether Mr Netanyahu tried to elicit positive media coverage from one of the country’s largest newspapers and in return for damaging a competing publication.

His wife, Sara, was accused of fraud last month after she allegedly misused $100,000 of public money.

Mr Netanyahu is not a suspect in Case 3000, which involves charges of corruption against several of his associates in the sale of German submarines to Israel, but he will provide testimony as a witness. 

The leader has denied any wrongdoing. He has asked the attorney general to investigate the alleged leaks to the media.

Even if the new immunity bill was passed, it would not affect sitting prime ministers, although Haaretz reported that Mr Netanyahu could circumvent this rule by calling for new elections. 

It would also not protect prime ministers from investigations related to national security, sex crimes, violence or drugs, as reported by Times of Israel.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olert called for a similar immunity bill which was voted down. He was found guilty of fraud and bribery after he left office, and served 16 months of a 27-month sentence.