Israeli Ministers Back Bill Limiting PM's Term to Eight Years

The bill does not apply retroactively and will therefore not apply to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

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A meeting of government ministers, today.
A meeting of government ministers, today.Credit: Marc Israel Sallem
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation supported on Sunday a bill that limits the service of an Israeli prime minister to a maximum of eight years.

The bill does not apply retroactively and will therefore not apply to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The bill was promoted by Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar who said on Thursday that "By its very nature, an extended term in this very powerful position could lead to an excessive concentration of power in the hands of the person serving in it and therefore could have damaging consequences."

According to Sa'ar, who also chairs the New Hope party, "Limiting the maximum term, as is proposed in this memorandum of law, is designed to limit in time the damaging influence of an excessive concentration of power in the hands of one person."

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is currently on trial on corruption charges, but unlike proposed legislation that would curb the ability of someone under indictment to form a government, Sa'ar's bill limiting the term of the prime minister had relatively broad support.

The Likud spokesperson said that Netanyahu "rejects any sort of bill to limit terms, whether it applies to him or not. Parliamentary democracies do not limit the terms of prime ministers but leave it to the public to decide freely who will serve them.

"This is how German citizens elected time and again their chancellors Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel for terms that lasted 16 years. So did also the Canadians, who elected Pierre Trudeau for a 15-years-long term as prime minister. No one," they added, "reckons that Canada and France are not exemplary democracies."

The Likud's response added that "The attempt of a person who does not pass the election threshold to limit a term elected by the public is entirely undemocratic."

Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweeted in support of the bill, saying "An overly long regime can bring about defilement and corruption. The limitation will improve the good governance and serve the citizens of Israel." He added that "They will do everything necessary to ensure that the bill will enter the book of laws."

Justice Minister Sa'ar also expressed his intention on Thursday that he intends to advance a similar bill that would limit the service of Israeli mayors to two terms. The bill would only permit a third mayoral term if the mayor is reelected by a special majority of more than half of the votes, rather than just a plurality.

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