Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said Wednesday that she opposes a bill which would create a ban on criminal defendants serving as prime minister.
“I don’t believe an attorney general should decide who heads a government,” she said.
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Haaretz reported this week that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit supports the bill and would defend it at the High Court of Justice, if needed. He believes that the actions and conduct of Benjamin Netanyahu as a prime minister under indictment highlighted the need for the bill. Netanyahu’s conduct threatened the stability of the government nearly to the point that Israel’s democracy was in danger, said Mendelblit.
Earlier, Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh tweeted that his faction would support the bill. Odeh wrote: “Shaked has only one vote, we have six. The Interior Minister is not a Knesset member, having resigned under the so-called “Norwegian Law,” but her assent is important as a senior member of the coalition. [Justice Minister] Gideon Sa’ar said "this bill can be passed by next week!”
According to a brief released two days ago, the law would preclude anyone under prosecution for a transgression carrying three or more year's imprisonment, or one involving moral turpitude, from forming a government. Such a Knesset member could not serve as an acting or alternate prime minister.
If approved, this law would be valid only beginning with the next Knesset. The law would include transgressions such as fraud and breach of trust, which carry a maximum sentence of three years imprisonment, and which are usually associated with moral turpitude.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennet and his Yamina party have yet to formulate a clear position on the bill. In addition to Shaked, United Arab List (Ra’am) chairman Mansour Abbas has also expressed reservations about the bill earlier this month, saying he objects to legislation that has underlying personal targets.
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The bill is not expected to be brought forward before the budget is passed, which is scheduled for mid-November. Despite Odeh’s declaration, expectations are that the coalition will need to reach some compromise that placates Shaked.
Sa’ar qualified his bill, noting that the chairman of the elections' committee, who is a Supreme Court justice, could allow the mandate for forming a government to be granted to a lawmaker accused of crimes the chairman deemed to be free of moral turpitude. According to the memorandum, the ability to appeal to the chairman of the elections' committee is needed because in limiting one’s legitimacy to form a government, there is a “violation of the constitutional right to elect and be elected.”
The memorandum notes three main reasons for the bill: “concern over real harm to the proper operation of government bodies and concern over a built-in conflict of interest due to a clash between personal and public interests”; concern over harming public trust in a prime minister and in government institutions; the ability of anyone charged with crimes to fulfill their duties as prime minister while “devoting the resources required for contending with a criminal trial.”