AG, state prosecutor lash out at PM-immunity bill
Avichai Mandelblit and Shay Nitzan unite in opposition to so-called 'French Bill' that would exempt sitting PM from investigation, effectively extricating Netanyahu from a web of corruption probes currently underway; 'Ignoring real criminal suspicions harms the state,' says Nitzan; AG warns it can lead to 'gravest consequences.'
Addressing the so-called “French Bill” being promoted by MK David "Dudi" Amsalem (Likud), State Prosecutor Shay Nitzan slammed the notion that any senior official should be immune from scrutiny and investigation for alleged wrongdoing.
“There are those who maintain that because of the ‘dignity’ of kings and leaders, we should not investigate too much if suspicion is raised against them so that the public's confidence in them is not compromised, and that is a total mistake,” he said.
The bill has become a central focus of the coalition with the opening of the 20th Knesset's winter session which began Sunday.
Amsalem initiated the bill in an effort to alleviate mounting pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has found himself at the center of a host of corruption investigations.
“The claim that the investigation causes damage was raised in the (former president) Moshe Katsav case when various sources claimed that the president's interrogation on suspicion of sex offenses would not only humiliate him but the state he represents,” Nitzan wrote.
“This is a totally mistaken attitude. Allowing a sitting president or any other leader to continue his term while ignoring real criminal suspicions that have arisen against him is what harms the state, its respect and stature and it also damages respect for public officials,” he continued.
Nitzan’s reservations were also shared by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit who on Sunday distributed his position on the matter among officials in the Justice Ministry, according to an Army Radio report on Monday morning.
“The result that this bill proposal leads to are the most grave and it cannot be accepted,” Mandelblit state unequivocally.
“Such an arrangement that lacks flexibility and balance severely impairs the interests of the rule of law, public confidence and equality before the law, and therefore this is a difficult arrangement that cannot be adopted.
“The proposed bill seems to reflect a position according to which the investigation authorities cannot be trusted to avoid—with the discretion they enjoy today—opening an investigation against the prime minister over a non-important issue," he continued.
Responding to the criticism leveled against the bill, MK Amsalem dismissed the authority of Nitzan’s opinion.
“Even if he is the state prosecutor, at the end of the day he is just a pen pusher. If he has reservations about the bill, he should bring them to the Knesset committee where the bill will be discussed and submit his position,” Amsalem said.
“To ask Nitzan about this is like asking the cat to guard the cream,” he derided. “He is responsible for the whole investigation. Just like I don't say to Shay Nitzan what my opinion is on the investigations he is conduction, he shouldn’t tell me what his opinion is on the bills I lead. It isn’t his job. He is overstepping his mark.”