After public outcry, Netanyahu backtracks on immunity bill

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked lawmakers to redraft a bill that would protect him from indictments made by police against him after the public protested the move, according to Haaretz.

Netanyahu announced yesterday that he has requested a new draft to be made such that the bill will not apply to the ongoing investigations against him. The change came a day after tens of thousands of people marched in Tel Aviv against the bill and government corruption.

Last Monday, the Israeli parliament had passed, in a first vote, the bill that would bar police from recommending whether charges should be filed against public officials. Critics subsequently slammed the move as a transparent attempt to shield Netanyahu from investigation.

The prime minister took to Facebook to clarify his position on the issue, stating that while he agreed with the bill, it would not apply to the current cases.

“Unfortunately, the debate over the recommendations bill has turned into a political weapon against an elected government.”

“It is obvious anyway that the police recommendations in my case are meaningless. It seems they were decided on at the start of the investigation, leaked throughout, and haven’t changed despite the clear facts presented time and time again – proving there was nothing,” he added.

Read: Corruption in Israel is not just an Israeli issue

The prime minister has been the subject of two corruption scandals, dubbed Case 1000 and Case 2000, in relation to which he was questioned for the sixth time last week.

Case 1000 involves allegations that the prime minister and his wife accepted illegal gifts from prominent Israeli businessmen. Days ago, evidence from Australian billionaire James Packer confirmed Israel Police suspicions, further cementing the accusations against the Netanyahus, proving that the gifts were not given freely by friends as they had claimed.

Case 2000 accuses the prime minister of attempting to buy favourable newspaper coverage with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth. It is alleged that Netanyahu tried to negotiate a deal with Mozes, offering legislation that would impede the activities of Mozes’ rival paper, Israel Hayom, in return for more favourable media coverage of the prime minister and his policies.

Netanyahu has also been questioned in regards to two other investigations: Case 3000, also known as the “submarine scandal”, albeit not as a suspect, and Case 4000, in which one of his close associates is suspected of providing confidential information to Israel’s largest telecoms company.

Netanyahu is not the first Israeli leader to face criminal investigation; former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted of breach of trust and bribery in 2014, serving 16 months of a 27-month term, and Ariel Sharon was questioned while in office over allegations of bribery and campaign financing illegalities.

Read: Netanyahu calls for Azaria to be pardoned