The bill—crafted by Amsalem as Netanyahu finds himself at loggerheads with the police over disagreements about the handling of a string of corruption investigations involving the Israeli premier—has become the latest subject of controversy ever since the so-called “French bill” was temporarily shelved.
“In cases where there is an attorney from the outset there is no need to recommend the case anyway. Afterall, the attorney general is conducting the investigation. When the police says ‘there is plethora of evidence’ it is akin to a recommendation,” Amsalem said, justifying the bill.
“In my opinion, the police is behaving contrary to the law. I am coming from the civilian angle, I am concerned for the people of Israel. The prime minister is part of the people of Israel, he is not a Hezbollah fighter. He is not Nasrallah, and it is right that he should have rights just like all civilians,” Amsalem continued in his justification before the raucous Knesset chamber.
Netanyahu himself was not present at the preliminary reading, which passed by a vote of 52 to 42, clearing the path to continue onto its next reading with the consent of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud), who voted in favor of the legislation, and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), who was also not present for the discussions
Many MKs have vehemently opposed the bill, which they say is being promoted purely to cushion the prime minister from an impending indictment.
Taking to the podium, Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid launched into the bill and its progenitor Amsalem, demanding that he explain not the bill itself but its timing.
“MK Amsalem, answer us one question: Why now? Why is this bill coming now? Since 1996 the prime minister has been the prime minister of the Israeli government. Why now? Somehow this bill has come about just one minute before the recommendation stage of the investigation,” Lapid pointed out.
“The truth is, MK Amsalem, that you are all trying to save the prime minister. You don’t want the details of the investigation to be known.
“Who are you kidding? Yourself? This building? They sent you, you are the messenger, the prime minister is scared and you are the messenger. There is one goal of this bill: to save the prime minister from the investigation.”
Responding to the accusation, Amsalem charged: “That is what interests you, to topple the prime minister,” prompting another volley from Lapid.
“You took this bill and the prime minister’s messengers say ‘we have one goal, to save the prime minister.’”
Echoing Lapid’s invective against the bill, leader of the opposition Avi Gabbay was equally forthright on his position.
“The recommendation bill is the essence of cynical and corrupt politics. This bill signals the way to the end of Netanyahu’s rule. A bill like this will not be forgiven either in Tel Aviv or in Elon Moreh,” Gabbay said, juxtaposing the secular and religious poles of the country to demonstrate bipartisan opposition. “It will take two months or two years, but today it has come to an end.”
On Tuesday, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit reiterated his objections to any bills intended to shield Netanyahu, whether from investigation—through the "French Bill"—or police recommending indictments.
"I have voiced my firm objections to bills I thought may severely harm basic principles. Nevertheless, some of the proposals were discussed and approved (Sunday) in the Ministerial Legislation Committee despite my vociferous protestations," Mandelblit said in a speech Tuesday evening.
The ‘recommendation bill’ was not the only piece of legislation that managed to pass its initial reading despite having sparked fierce opposition among MKs.
Earlier on Wednesday, a bill formulated to enable ministers to directly appoint ministry legal advisors passed by a vote of 49 to 38 despite reservations also voiced by Mandelblit.
According to the bill, instead of an appointment taking place through a tender, in which a minister is unable to influence the outcome of the nomination, candidates will be selected by the a search committee and will require the consent of the relevant minister and the attorney general.