The Knesset passed legislation on Wednesday night, December 27, which prevents police from recommending the indictment of high-profile targets of criminal investigations. The legislation passed in its third reading, with 59 Knesset members voting for and 54 against the bill, following a lengthy filibuster by members of opposition parties. The newly-enacted law was brought by petitioners before the Supreme Court for review on Thursday morning.
Two members of the right-wing coalition, Kulanu MKs Rachel Azaria and Merav Ben-Ari, did not participate in the vote because of “reasons of conscience.” No opposition MK agreed to leave to offset the absence of Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay, who did not remain in the plenum for the vote due to medical reasons. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Welfare and Labor Minister Chaim Katz did not vote because both are under police investigation. The other 115 MKs were present and voted, a record number since the 20th Knesset began its sessions following the March 2015 general elections.
The opposition filibustered the bill for over 43 hours, beginning before 3 am on Tuesday, after previously devoting 11 hours to voting on other bills.
The bill, which has been dubbed “the recommendations bill,” will not apply to police investigations that were in progress before the legislation goes into effect, meaning that will not impact the two currently ongoing investigations termed Case 1000 and Case 2000 against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the investigation of Likud MK David Bitan.
The first to speak in the Knesset’s pre-vote debate on the controversial bill on Tuesday was its sponsor and new coalition head, MK David Amsalem (Likud). Amsalem attacked what he called “the biggest bluff I’ve ever encountered,” accusing opposition Knesset members of orchestrating, along with the media, a campaign of lies whereby the bill is tailor made to shield Prime Minister Netanyahu from current police investigations into Cases 1000 and 2000, even though the legislation explicitly does not apply to previously ongoing investigations. MK Amsalem said to the opposition MKs: “The entire media, most of it, the leftist media, is lying to the public with your help, and you are lying shamelessly even though you know the facts.”
Unperturbed by Amsalem’s accusations, Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) said, “The recommendations law will still serve Netanyahu. It’s not for nothing that the coalition is so eager to pass it, even at the price of putting on hold all the Knesset’s other activities.” Khenin continued: “This week furnishes additional proof that the only real agenda left for this government is saving Netanyahu from the police. For this they are prepared to throw aside the real problems of Israel’s citizens.”
According to MK Khenin, “The legislation will protect Netanyahu in [future] cases 3000 and 4000 and in cases 5000 and 6000 as well, which we still don’t know about. I’m assuming Netanyahu does know about them; otherwise he wouldn’t have gone into such frenzy, leading the entire coalition into a destructive journey to pass the recommendations bill this week, at the expense of all of the other issues the Knesset is supposed to be discussing.”