Amid Netanyahu Probes, Israeli Opposition Tries to Push Bill Forcing Indicted Premiers to Resign

Netanyahu backed identical legislation back in 2008, when then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was under investigation ■ If passed, the bill will only come into force after the next election

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference at the European Council in Brussels on December 11, 2017.

The opposition will try on Sunday to advance a bill that would require indicted prime ministers to resign from their position. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported an identical bill back in 2008, when then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was under investigation. 

The bill’s sponsor, MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union), has proposed that it come into force only after the next election, so that it won’t be seen as targeting Netanyahu personally in light of the current police investigations against him.

The bill will be discussed by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. It would require any minister, including the prime minister, to resign immediately if charged with any crime bearing a maximum sentence of more than three years in jail.

The 2008 bill was supported by several dignitaries now serving in the cabinet, including Haim Katz, Yuval Steinitz, Tzachi Hanegbi, Zeev Elkin and Moshe Kahlon. It passed its preliminary reading, but shortly afterward, Olmert resigned and the Knesset dissolved, so it automatically froze.

In a letter sent to the ministerial panel this weekend, Hasson wrote, “It’s clear to me that at the present time, it would be very hard to discuss the bill in terms of principles rather than personalities.

I don’t want discussion of this bill to deteriorate into another routine and predictable skirmish between the coalition and the opposition over the investigations into Prime Minister Netanyahu. Therefore, I’d like to propose that the bill be approved, but take effect only in the next Knesset.”

Hasson added that he agrees with what Netanyahu said back in 2008: For a prime minister under indictment to continue serving would be “intolerable in a democratic county, because there’s a high probability that he would neglect urgent affairs of state to deal with the legal proceedings to which he is subject.”