Amid Election Talk, Opposition Proposes Bill to Block Netanyahu From Forming a Government

While budget disagreements threaten to send Israel to another election, Yesh Atid-Telem seeks law that would prevent a politician indicted for serious crimes from forming a government

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Yair Lapid speaks at an anti-Netanyahu protest in Rabin Square, April 19, 2020.
Yair Lapid speaks at an anti-Netanyahu protest in Rabin Square, April 19, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Yesh Atid-Telem faction announced Sunday that they will present a bill to the Knesset on Wednesday to prevent a criminally indicted lawmaker from forming a government. If passed, such a bill would prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government if another election is called.

The proposed law, which will be brought to a vote in a preliminary reading, reads: “The term of office of a prime minister against whom an indictment has been filed for serious offenses, including corruption and breach of trust, is in stark contrast to the moral norms required of a public official.”

If the bill fails to pass the vote, it cannot be proposed again for another half a year. No similar bills have been proposed so far, and if another faction does so, it will only be brought to a vote after the summer recess.

Sources in the opposition said the move was intended to pressure Kahol Lavan and Labor to take a stand against Netanyahu and vote in favor of the proposed law. The sources added that Yesh Atid feels this is the right time to present the proposal, even if it fails. The Knesset is expected to take a recess in any case and the Knesset may dissolve due to disputes between Likud and Kahol Lavan over the 2020 budget.

The budget dispute led to the cancellation of the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, as coalition sources said no further progress had been made. If a budget plan is not agreed upon by August 25, the Knesset will dissolve and Israel will hold another general election - the fourth in two years.

The faction, headed by opposition-leader Yair Lapid, broke away from Kahol Lavan after party leader Benny Gantz decided to join a coalition government alongside Netanyahu.

Lapid said Sunday that “the fact that the cabinet meeting was canceled today and we are sliding toward another election is because the prime minister is preoccupied with the charges against him. It’s a disgrace. People have nothing to eat, businesses are closing. That’s why we’re bringing forward this bill to the Knesset. We cannot continue on like this.”

Speaking on Channel 12 News on Saturday, Gantz said, “It makes sense to say a prime minister can’t serve under indictment. We’ll see what happens if Netanyahu makes the mistake of dragging the country to another election.” According to Gantz, “Netanyahu has major legal and personal challenges. He has considerations that I don’t have. I assume he has his reasons for wanting an election, but it’s there is no way anyone could conclude that we need an election.”

Legal experts who have examined the proposed legislation told Haaretz that a move to block Netanyahu from becoming prime minister is unlikely. Writing into law a demand for a majority of more than 61 lawmakers in order to amend the legislation would be legally indefensible. If Netanyahu is able to form a government with a simple majority of 61 seats, he will have the votes to amend or shoot down the legislation barring him from serving as prime minister. The only scenario that would make political and legal sense would be to block Netanyahu from heading a minority government composed of less than 61 lawmakers - in which case he would not have the votes to amend the legislation barring him from serving as prime minister.

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