MK David Bitan
MK David Bitan Flash 90

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) questioned the police decision to reveal that Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan was being investigated for graft offenses, charging that the expose was payback from the police for his work on passing the Recommendations Law.

The Recommendations Law would prohibit the police from making recommendations for and against prosecution to the judiciary at the end of an investigation, as they have done up to now. Those pushing for the law cite that over 50% of those recommendations are not accepted by the prosecution, but the publicizing of the police recommendation harms the interrogated party whether or not he is indicted.

Police announced on Sunday that they had arrested 17 officials who had worked with Bitan while he chaired the Rishon Letzion municipality's Construction and Planning Committee. Bitan was interrogated Sunday morning but was not arrested due to his parliamentary immunity as a Knesset member.

"Is there even one person here who believes that the 'explosion' of the affair connected with Coalition Chairman David Bitan and the arrests that are already being broadcast this morning is not related to the timing of the passing of the Recommendations Bill in the Knesset this week?" tweeted Smotrich.

MK David Amsalem (Likud) concurred, charging that the police had purposely revealed the secret probe in an attempt to discredit Bitan ahead of a Knesset vote on Bitan's Recommendations Law.

"What would have happened if the police interrogated Bitan two days from now and not today? Someone is trying to torpedo the Recommendations Law," said Amsalem. The Knesset is scheduled to vote on the Recommendations Law on Monday.

Police are investigating Bitan over suspicions that he accepted bribes while chairing Rishon Letzion's planning committee in order to pay off massive debts he owed to black market figures as a result of his mismanagement of the Rishon Letzion soccer team. A 2016 investigation by Channel 10 revealed that Bitan had owed as much as 6 million shekels, and Bitan has never revealed where he received the money to pay it off.

Police investigated Bitan in 2010 over allegations that building contractors paid his debts in return for city contracts, but the case was closed without charges.