Israeli AG decries bill to protect prime minister from prosecution

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit criticized a bill Tuesday that would grant serving prime ministers immunity from criminal prosecution as “unacceptable.”

The bill would not protect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the current investigations into alleged corruption. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
The bill would not protect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the current investigations into alleged corruption. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

Speaking at a think tank seminar in Jerusalem, Mandelblit said the bill would turn the top government position into a “refuge” for criminals.

The bill, championed by Likud MK David Amsalem, has been referred to as the “French bill,” based on a French constitutional amendment that would not allow law enforcement to open an investigation of a sitting prime minister.

With the exception of certain crimes, the bill would essentially prohibit police from accusing a prime minister of fraud, bribery or breach of trust.

“The role of prime minister, the most important role in the country, would become a ‘refuge city’ for that criminal,” Mandelblit said. “This would be a massive blow to the rule of law, the principle of equality before the law and public trust.”

The proposal comes amid two ongoing criminal investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been accused of corruption.

The bill would not help Netanyahu avoid the current allegations against him. However, it would prevent the prime minister from being prosecuted in any future criminal cases.

Mandelblit described one situation in which the bill could prevent a prime minister from criminal investigation or conviction while those around him or her are accused and convicted.

The prime minister would be allowed to stay in office, despite allegations surrounding the office and staff, which could give the top leader time to contaminate or destroy evidence against him or her.

The bill, Mandelblit said, is “lacking all balance” and would ultimately bring “harm to the rule of law” and “public trust.”

“In a democratic country, the rule of law is the same for every person — from the simple citizen up to the prime minister,” Mandelblit said. “That is how it was, and it is appropriate that it should continue to be so.”

By Sara Shayanian