MK Betzalel Smotrich
MK Betzalel Smotrich Arutz Sheva

MK Betzalel Smotrich (Yamina) is working to advance the passage of the “French Law” which would protect serving prime ministers from being questioned on crimes that are not of a severe nature.

Smotrich was careful to clarify that the proposed legislation is not designed to protect current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from the criminal charges he is currently facing, as it will not apply retroactively, adding that, “We do not legislate laws that are designed with a specific person in mind.

“Yamina entered politics in order to get things done, not just talk,” he continues. “We’re not going to just sit there in the Knesset and make fiery speeches and be photographed with the Prime Minister in court. We want to do what we can to fix what’s wrong with the system here, to make real, constructive changes that apply in general terms, not just to Netanyahu specifically.”

Smotrich notes that, “There’s something very fishy when you consider Netanyahu himself, in fact. He used to be one of the greatest defenders of the judiciary, with all its faults – until he suddenly found himself on the receiving end and then the penny dropped and he ‘realized’ that things have to change.

“We, on the other hand, have been talking about the many things wrong with the legal system for years – the values espoused by the judges that affect their rulings; the relationship between the judiciary, the legislature, and the executive – and we want to correct what’s wrong. The French Law is a good example of fixing things on a large scale. It’s an essential aspect of protecting the separation of powers. A prime minister needs to be able to get on with his job without worrying that people are trying to stitch him up.”

Smotrich stresses that the French Law does not concern itself with grave offences, “but it would apply to cases where it’s clear that issuing indictments and such constitute, above all, a form of legal persecution. Such behavior erodes public trust, when people see the judiciary as playing political games. Again, I want to repeat that despite Netanyahu’s vehement protests right now, this is a new development that started only when he became the target of the legal system. In any case, the proposed legislation won’t apply retroactively, so it has no relevance to his case – it will only apply to any future prime minister.”

Won’t the right-wing parties come to regret the passage of such a law, assuming it passes, if the country ends up at some point with a left-wing prime minister? Smotrich sees this question as yet another proof of the necessity of having such a law on the books. “This is precisely the point,” he says. “Initiating criminal proceedings has become a political tool. This is disastrous for democracy.”

Smotrich notes that the French Law is only one of several laws whose sole aim is to regulate the legal system. Other laws include the Override Clause (that would allow the Knesset, in specific instances, to re-legislate laws that have been declared invalid or unconstitutional by the Supreme Court); changes that may be made to the way in which legal appointments are made; a clear delineation between the roles of Attorney-General and Prosecutor General; and the cancellation of the “reasonability clause.”

In Smotrich’s estimation, there is a clear majority in the Knesset for all these laws, “and now, it remains to see if the Likud will suffice with empty statements and photo ops, or if they really want to fix what’s wrong with the judiciary.”