Coalition Heads to Back Lighter Version Netanyahu's 'Gideon Saar Bill'

The bill, which limits the president's choices of prime minister following an election, was proposed by Netanyahu after he accused President Rivlin and former cabinet member Gideon Saar of conspiring to oust him

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, December 9, 2018.
Marc Israel Sellem

The heads of the coalition parties decided on Sunday to bring to a preliminary Knesset reading an attenuated version of a bill which limits the choices the country’s president has when calling on a Knesset member to form a government after an election. The Ministerial Committee of Legislation subsequently approved the bill.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who introduced this law, which has been dubbed the “Gideon Saar Law” after one of his potential Likud rivals, has been exerting heavy pressure to pass this bill before the Knesset dissolves.

The law calls on the president to assign the task of forming a government to a head of a party, rather than to any Knesset member he believes could achieve this task. “There is a missing link in the present version of the law and this needs to be fixed,” said Netanyahu at a meeting of Likud cabinet members. “I saw a report indicating that the president is in any case intending to call on the person receiving the most recommendations to form a government. I welcome this and clarify that the Likud is not predicating the passage of this amendment on the promotion of any other bill.”

Netanyahu did so following charges by Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who said recently that he had reached an agreement with the coalition to support those bills that comply with his opinions, but that didn’t work out because all the coalition cared about was the Gideon Sa’ar bill.

Underlying this bill is Netanyahu’s concern that after the next election, President Rivlin will assign the formation of a government to another Knesset member. Netanyahu pointed a finger at Gideon Saar, saying that “the former cabinet member is talking to coalition members and cooking a move to undermine me, in which I’d lead the Likud to a sweeping electoral victory and then they’d make sure I would not be prime minister.” Saar and Rivlin have vehemently denied any involvement in such a plot.

The affair began six weeks ago, in a report in Israel Hayom, according to which Netanyahu refrained from moving up the elections due to such concerns. It was also reported then that a Likud member who is close to Rivlin had discussed the issue with Likud Knesset members and a “media personality who is close to Likud,” asking for their cooperation. This person was later identified as Saar.