The bill exempting Prime Ministers from criminal prosecution: “A New Low in the Attack on the Rule of Law”

MQG called upon Knesset Member Nissan Slomianski to prevent the introduction of the bill intended by KM David Amsalem, from the Likud, which seeks to free the incumbent Prime Minister from criminal prosecution. We call it: “ A New Low in the Attack on the Rule of Law”.

MQG recently addressed Knesset Member Nissan Slomianski, Chairman of the Knesset Committee on Constitution, Law and Justice, following MK David Amsalem’s declared intention to advance a bill that would exempt the incumbent Prime Minister from criminal prosecution, on what MK Amsalem terms “light” matters. The justification adduced for this exemption is that prime ministers in Israel are too often embroiled in criminal investigations, which interferes too much with their duties and responsibilities as prime minister.

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MK David Amsalem

In the view of MQG, this is a new low in the attacks on the Rule of Law, and it reveals a lack of understanding of the position of Prime Minister in a democratic system, as “first amongst equals”. The proposed bill shows profound contempt of the judgement of the agencies of law enforcement in deciding when to investigate those suspected of criminal behavior. This bill cynically turns the wrong-doer into the “victim”. It spits in the face of the Israeli public who is entitled to demand that those in government positions be above taint.

This new low in the attack on the Rule of Law is incompatible with a democratic system. The Rule of Law is one of the foundations of a democratic system of government; it means that the same law applies to all: from the common citizen to the highest office holders – and no person is above the law.

If this bill was to be enacted into law, the Prime Minister would be exempt from prosecution, for example, if he/she avoided declaring monies he/she brought into Israel or deposited abroad (according to the 2000 law prohibiting money laundering); or if he/she was neglectful in the safekeeping of classified documents (according to the 119 clause of the criminal code from 1977); or if he/she inaccurately reported on the deliberations of Commissions of Investigation (according to clause 251 of the Criminal Code).

It is inconceivable to allow any person to be exempt from criminal prosecution, no matter how important or “busy” that person may be. Exactly the opposite is true: a strong democracy is measured by its capacity to treat equally those with the least power, just as those with the most power.

It bears mentioning that introducing this bill at this particular moment – when Prime Minister Netanyahu is being investigated by the police, and the details of the investigation are in the shadows – shows an even more flawed intent than introducing it at a time when no such investigations are being conducted. It is difficult not to see in this crude legislative proposal an attempt by a member of the PM’s party to protect his party’s leader while spitting in the face of the Israeli public.

The Israeli public deserves to demand that those who run for leadership positions be people of upright character who don’t hide skeletons in the closet, and who are not prone to criminal entanglements during their terms in office. This is such an elementary expectation that we are aghast that there is even the need to spell it out.

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