On June 6th the BBC News website published a report concerning the previous evening’s appointment of MK Amir Ohana to the post of acting justice minister.
Titled “Israel: Amir Ohana becomes first openly gay minister”, the report’s sole reference to the new minister’s professional background came in a quote.
“Announcing his appointment, the prime minister’s office said Mr Ohana was a former lawyer who was “very familiar with the justice system”.”
The report did however tell readers that:
“Mr Ohana, 43, is a Netanyahu loyalist, who backs moves to protect the prime minister from possible prosecution.”
“Mr Ohana is a strong supporter of Mr Netanyahu, and has given his backing to a controversial bill to grant a sitting prime minister immunity from prosecution.”
Clearly there is a difference between “moves to protect the prime minister from possible prosecution” and (as yet theoretical) legislation which would “grant a sitting prime minister immunity from prosecution” [emphasis added].
The only relevant bill answering that description is a private members bill submitted on May 20th by MK Miki Zohar which has yet to have a preliminary reading. Amir Ohana is not listed as one of the bill’s proposers and we have been unable to find any record of comment on his part relating to that bill since its submission.
On May 22nd Mr Ohana did give an interview to an Israeli radio station in which he stated that he is in favour of going back to the parliamentary immunity law as it was in 2005 before amendment. As explained in this article:
“Under that law, every minister and MK automatically had immunity from prosecution unless the Knesset voted to lift his immunity. The new law passed in 2005 reversed the situation, so that any minister or MK could be indicted unless the Knesset voted to grant him immunity.”
In that radio interview Mr Ohana clarified that:
“Nobody is talking about eternal immunity. After the elected official completes his term of office, he will stand trial. In the meantime, let him do his job.”
Clearly the BBC could have been more accurate in its portrayal of Minister Ohana’s views.