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After protest, Netanyahu seeks change to bill altering police powers

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office on December 3, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / AP / Sebastian Scheiner

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sunday for changes to controversial legislation his opponents say was designed to help him survive ongoing police probes after tens of thousands protested at the weekend.

The long-serving prime minister is facing two separate graft probes that have led to speculation over whether he will eventually be forced to step down.

Israel’s parliament has been examining legislation that would limit the police’s ability to make recommendations to the attorney general on whether or not to charge suspects.

On his Facebook page on Sunday, Netanyahu called for changes to the proposed law to make clear that it “will not involve current investigations against me.”

He said he was making the call because he did not want the law “to be used for propaganda purposes.”

Netanyahu also seemed to criticise the police, saying it appeared a recommendation whether or not to charge him had been decided in advance regardless of the evidence.

The 68-year-old, who has been questioned by police six times in connection with the investigations, has maintained his innocence.

His statement came after tens of thousands took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday night to protest against alleged corruption in Netanyahu’s government.

Last week, Israel’s parliament approved a first reading of the bill, which would alter current practice under which at the end of an enquiry police tell the attorney general if they feel that they have enough evidence for a prosecution.

The bill would require the attorney general to ask the police for its input, but the police’s opinion could not be made public.

A one-year prison term was envisioned for investigators who leak their conclusions.

Parliament was due to vote the legislation into law as early as Monday, but it is now expected to be delayed.

While calling for his cases to be excluded, Netanyahu maintained that such legislation was important to protect suspects from being smeared with premature leaks.

Police are investigating Netanyahu over suspicions he received expensive gifts from wealthy supporters as well as over allegations he sought a secret deal for favourable coverage with a newspaper publisher.

Netanyahu allies have also been questioned by police as part of a separate probe into the purchase of German submarines.

Netanyahu has not been named as a suspect in the submarine investigation.


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