A bill being pushed by the Likud Party seeking to shield a sitting prime minister from police investigation cannot be passed as a regular law, only as a Basic Law, according to an opinion by Knesset legal advisor Eyal Yinon obtained by Ynet on Tuesday.
Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) announced Sunday that he intends to promote the bill as a regular law after coalition partners Kulanu and Bayit Yehudi raised objections to the legislation, also known as the "French Bill."
Bayit Yehudi and Kulanu cited coalition agreements, which stipulate any new Basic Laws—or amendments to existing ones—must have the support of all members of the coalition. If the bill is promoted as a regular piece of legislation, however, coalition agreements would obligate the two parties to throw their weight behind it.
MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) has asked Knesset legal advisor Eyal Yinon to examine the legal ramifications of such a move.
In his response to Hasson, Yinon noted that "Since 1995, the basic premise in Israeli constitutional law has been that there is a hierarchy that grants the Basic Laws a higher status than that accorded to 'ordinary' laws. Accordingly, the amendment of a Basic Law should be made within the confines of a Basic law."
Yinon cited the existing Basic Law: The Government, which states that "a criminal investigation against the prime minister cannot be launched without the approval of the attorney general."
The prime minister can therefore be investigated for any offense, with the sole condition being the authorization of the attorney general.
Consequently, any legislation that seeks to impose additional restrictions on the investigation of the prime minister constitutes a change of the existing constitutional arrangement. Therefore, according to Yinon, it would require an amendment of the Basic Law.
Yinon was also asked to provide his legal opinion on another bill proposal to impose a term limit on Israeli prime ministers, raised in an effort to convince the coalition, and particularly Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, to support the French Bill.
Yinon cited Basic Law: The Government, which stipulates that "When the need arises to establish a new government, the president of the state will task one member of Knesset to establish the government."
Because the Basic Law does not set any limitations on the president's choice, setting any restrictions to that end would also require an amendment to the Basic Law to avoid contradiction between the Basic Law and regular laws.
"In this Knesset, we've seen countless ploys and attempted ploys by the coalition and Coalition Chairman Bitan, and I therefore believe we should take preventive steps to stop any constitutional ploys in advance," MK Hasson said.
"The Knesset's legal advisor's opinion is clear, and if the government wishes to pass such extreme changes, the only way is by changing the Basic Law. There are no shortcuts," he continued.
"This is the coalition parties' opportunity to stop the Likud members' bill proposals, as they are focused solely on saving Netanyahu instead of dealing with the problems that are troubling the citizens of Israel."