Israel passes law to 'protect Netanyahu during corruption scandal'

Israel passes law to 'protect Netanyahu during corruption scandal'
The bill stops police from recommending to prosecutors whether to indict suspects upon completing their investigations and prevents information from being leaked to the media.
2 min read
28 December, 2017
Netanyahu is being questioned on bribe, fraud and breach of trust [AFP]
Israel’s parliament has passed legislation curbing a police practice of recommending indictments in high-profile cases before charges are pressed. 

The bill was pushed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party as he faces corruption allegations. It is believed the bill was designed to shield the long-ruling prime minister.

The so-called “recommendations bill” passed early Thursday after days of filibustering. It stops police from recommending to prosecutors whether to indict suspects upon completing their investigations.

It also aims to stop leaks to the media from the investigations themselves. Much of the details of police investigations of Netanyahu that have been published stem from such leaks.

Critics say the law muzzles police and other institutions. An initial version was watered down after an uproar and does not apply to current investigations including those concerning Netanyahu.

'Threat to law enforcement'

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog called it “an immediate and explicit threat” to law enforcement. He said it marks “the battle between the country’s spirit of democracy and a spirit of corruption.”

Supporters of the bill say it’s needed to protect citizens who are investigated but never charged and have their reputations tarnished when recommendations are made public.

Netanyahu has been questioned in two cases and police say they suspect him of being involved in bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

One investigation involving Netanyahu, dubbed by police “File 1000,” reportedly concerns claims he improperly accepted lavish gifts from supporters, including Australian billionaire James Packer and Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan.

The second investigation, “File 2000,” reportedly concerns Netanyahu’s secret talks with the publisher of a major Israeli newspaper in which Netanyahu allegedly requested positive coverage in exchange for reining in a free pro-Netanyahu daily.

Netanyahu has consistently denied any wrongdoing and says he has been the target of a campaign by political opponents, openly criticising the media and "left-wing" groups.

Another investigation has engulfed his close associates. “File 3000,” relates to a possible conflict of interest involving the purchase of German submarines

Netanyahu’s personal attorney, who is also his cousin, represented the German firm involved and is suspected of trading his influence with the prime minister in return for a hefty cut of the deal.

Netanyahu has not been named a suspect in that probe.