MK Miki Zohar (Likud) is seeking to enact an Immunity Law, according to which a serving MK’s immunity may only be lifted by the House Committee. This immunity, obviously, covers serving prime ministers. And, in case you’ve been touring the galaxy over the past few years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an MK, has been under police investigation over claims of his corruption in six separate cases.
As is customary in other democratic parliaments, Knesset members enjoy a legal immunity from prosecution, in accordance with the Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Obligations Law 5711-1951. The immunity protection is based on the view that a member of the Knesset should be free to investigate issues pertinent to their legislative work without fear of government restriction and intimidation.
The opening clause of the Immunity Law states: “A Knesset Member shall not bear criminal or civil liability, and shall be immune to any legal action, due to a vote, or because of an oral or written opinion, or because of an act he has done – in or outside the Knesset or – if the vote, the expression of opinion or the act were done in the performance of his duties as a member of the Knesset.”
Until July 2005, the MKs’ immunity was automatic and granted even without his or her request, while removing it required the approval of the House Committee and the plenum’s vote in a secret ballot. But in 2005, the High Court of Justice held that only an assessment by the MK in question that the Attorney General had acted in bad faith in filing an indictment against them could justify not lifting immunity.
In other words, an MK’s immunity is no longer automatic and requires a political process to enforce it.
MK Zohar explained: “The bill I submitted is intended to restore the situation to its former status, and to ensure that elected officials are protected from political persecution, since an indictment can be filed against them only with the approval of the House Committee.”
“There is no dispute that Israeli democracy must first of all ensure the will of the people and prevent non-objective elements from subverting their will,” the MK continued. “Only the people will decide who their elected officials will be, and only they will they decide who is worthy and who is not.”