Investigations, Controversy Greet Returning Knesset Members
Knesset members returned to work Monday amidst a raucous flurry of political posturing, controversial bill proposals and a series of ongoing criminal investigations of Prime Minister Netanyahu, his wife Sara and several former aides on corruption allegations.
The opening of the parliamentary winter session is marked largely by a list of controversial measures, including bills to legalize the Jewish character of the state, to limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and especially a proposal by MK Dudi Amsallem (Likud) to block criminal investigations of sitting prime ministers for fraud, bribery or breach of trust.
Amsallem insists the latter bill is not crafted to shield Netanyahu and says the bill, should it become law, would not apply to investigations that have already been launched. But some MKs have voiced concerns that the law could be applied retroactively.
Knesset Speaker MK Yoel (Yuli) Edelstein, President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, current and former government ministers and bereaved families opened the Knesset winter session Monday calling for bipartisanship and collaboration.
Edelstein and Rivlin, both members of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, warned against overstepping the mandate to govern and especially against reducing the authority of the Supreme Court and the High Court of Justice.
Rivlin criticized public attacks on the judiciary and warned that a push by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and the Jewish Home faction to limit the court‘s jurisdiction would weaken the court‘s authority de facto and in the eyes of the public.
”How exactly would a conformist, toothless Supreme Court that finds itself under threat be in the interest of the State of Israel or of Israeli democracy? Rivlin asked.
Edelstein added a word of caution that separation of powers between three independent branches is not a “nice (thing) to have,” but rather an essential element to ensure security and freedom for all Israelis.
“Members of the opposition, I’d ask you to think twice before running to the High Court of Justice to overturn laws passed
by the government. Think about the impact that that has on our democracy,” Edelstein said.
Edelstein also called on coalition members not to try to thwart democratic standards of governmental oversight, saying that any attempt to harm accepted oversight would be an “violation of our responsibility.”
The session began with a modicum of decorum and civility, but quickly descended into a shouting match between members of the parliamentary opposition and Prime Minister Netanyahu when the latter took the microphone.
Netanyahu opened his remarks with a pledge to obtain the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who were killed during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, as well as the return of Abera Mengistu, Hisham alSayed and Juma Ibrahim Abu Ghanima, who are believed to be alive and held by Hamas in Gaza. He also said that Israel is a rising power, both regionally and around the world.
“We are becoming a rising global power,” the prime minister said. “We are becoming an economic power, our military strength is unprecedented.
That’s not to be taken for granted.
The opening of the parliamentary winter session is marked largely by a list of controversial measures, including bills to legalize the Jewish character of the state, to limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and especially a proposal by MK Dudi Amsallem (pictured above) of the Likud party to block criminal investigations of sitting prime ministers for fraud, bribery or breach of trust.