Tuesday 21 May 2019

Netanyahu to push law to protect him from prosecution

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Reuters
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Reuters

Bel Trew

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to push through a new law that would allow parliament to protect his immunity from prosecution, as he faces possible indictment in three corruption cases, according to leaks in the Israeli media.

The new far-reaching bill would allow the Knesset, Israel's parliament, and government ministers to essentially ignore any High Court of Justice ruling, 'Haaretz' revealed, including the potential revocation of Mr Netanyahu's immunity.

According to the left-leaning daily, the move is written into a "legal appendix" of the coalition agreement and government guidelines Mr Netanyahu is currently drawing up as he builds a new coalition government after winning the April general elections.

If passed, the clause would give additional protection to the powerful right-wing leader, who secured a record fifth term in office and whose avid supporters dominate the legislative body.

Mr Netanyahu has already tried to restore the 2005 wording of an Immunity Law where the Knesset House Committee could reject the attorney-general's request to rescind immunity of a particular parliamentarian.

But the law on its own would not safeguard the prime minister as the High Court of Justice is ultimately given the final word.

According to 'Haaretz', the new proposed "override clause" would mean this is no longer the case, as the Knesset would be permitted to reject even the High Court's administrative decisions, effectively turning all their rulings into legal suggestions which can be ignored.

Mr Netanyahu's Likud party rejected the media leaks calling them "sensational" and "misleading" in a statement on Twitter, but failed to give any further details.

Anshel Pfeffer, an Israeli journalist, author and expert on Mr Netanyahu, sounded the alarm.

"The implication of this law, if it passes, will be that the High Court will lose its powers of judicial review over government actions, in any field, the military occupation, state and religion, etc. All this to save Netanyahu from being put on trial," he wrote on Twitter.

"In 13 years in power, Netanyahu has never tried something like this. He never truly challenged the Supreme Court.

"But now it's his neck on the line, he's just won a fifth election and he just might have a majority in the new Knesset to pass such a law, upending 70 years' precedent."

Israel's attorney-general is expected to indict Mr Netanyahu in three corruption cases dubbed cases 1000, 2000, and 4000, after he faces a pre-trial hearing in the next few months.

In case 4000, police have alleged that Mr Netanyahu granted regulatory favours to Israel's leading telecommunications company, Bezeq, in return for more positive coverage on Walla, a news website belonging to the firm's owner.

Case 2000 focuses on suspicions Mr Netanyahu negotiated a deal with the 'Yedioth Ahronoth' newspaper for better coverage in return for promises to limit the circulation of a rival. In the third investigation, case 1000, police argue that he received expensive gifts from wealthy friends.

Mr Netanyahu has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

There have been several leaked reports at his alleged attempts to shield himself from standing trial. (© Independent News Service)

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