by Mara Vigevani
For the first time on Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the issue of a controversial bill tabled by Likud Party colleague MK Dudi Amsallem that would block state prosecutors from indicting a sitting prime minister.
Speaking to Likud ministers prior to the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu addressed the proposal, saying, “I am not interested in any law that relates to investigations that are going on at this time, whether they are connected to me or not.”
Netanyahu’s remarks came on the heels of a growing crisis between the Likud and Bayit Yehudi parties over the so-called “French Bill.”
Earlier Sunday, Coalition Whip David Bitan said the Ministerial Committee for Legislation would freeze votes on all coalition bills until the Likud and Bayit Yehudi parties resolved a dispute over the bill.
Last Wednesday the Likud agreed to shelve the measure for a month before bringing it for a vote in order to allow coalition partners an opportunity to study and comment on the bill. The following day, however, Bitan threatened to re-table the decision unless Bayit Yehudi stopped criticizing the measure in the press.
Bitan was insistent Sunday to bring the measure for a vote, but Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said she would use her authority as Committee chairwoman to take the bill off the committee agenda. She also said that Bitan’s threat “lacked teeth,” and that she would convene the Committee over Bitan’s opposition to debate other measures.
Shaked has said the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party would not allow the bill to pass without the coalition factions discussing it.
Despite the crisis, Minister of Culture and Sports Miri Regev (Likud) told the Israel Broadcast Corporation (Kan network) Sunday that the brouhaha surrounding the French Law would not dismantle the coalition.
“We have had more severe crises than the French law,” she said. “It is not a personal law that talks about the prime minister, it’s a law that ranks and distinguishes between offenses,” Regev declared.
“It is not possible to interrogate a prime minister for every cigar; we are all committed to integrity, and no one will teach us what it is.”
Bayit Yehudi MK Shuli Mualem-Refaeli also said the issue did not threaten the government “because we are all signatories of the coalition agreement, which requires the consent of all factions to change basic laws.
“We explained that the Bayit Yehudi Committee has no agreement on the law, and therefore our request is not to bring it,” Moalem-Refaeli told the Israel Broadcast Corporation.