Israel's Justice Minister Preparing Bill to Block Criminal Defendants From Forming Gov't

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Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar at a conference in Sde Boker, on Thursday.
Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar at a conference in Sde Boker, on Thursday.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar said that he has instructed his ministry to prepare a bill that would prevent the president from giving a criminal defendant – including opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu – the mandate to form a government.

In an interview published on Friday in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Sa'ar said that he is coordinating with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on the process, and that he intends to present the bill during the Knesset's winter session.

If the bill passes, opposition leader Netanyahu, who has been indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust would not be able to form a government. According to Sa'ar, it would go into effect for elections for the next Knesset.

"I would not have started this process without coordination with the prime minister," Sa'ar said. "I remind you of the norms that have applied to the State of Israel on the matter: mayors who are indicted are suspended. And I remind you that mayors are voted in via direct elections, and despite this, the legislature ruled in a broad consensus to suspend them if they are indicted."

Sa'ar added that he plans to prepare another bill that would limit a prime minister's term to eight years during the Knesset's winter session.

Attempts by coalition parties to reach an agreement on a bill to introduce prime ministerial term limits began during coalition negotiations. Senior officials in Bennett's Yamina party have taken issue with the wording of the bill, and coalition sources doubt that it will garner the majority it needs to pass.

Last year, the High Court of Justice struck down a petition seeking to bar then-Prime Minister Netanyahu from forming a government. The justices ruled that the law does not prevent an indicted lawmaker from being able to form a government or from leading one. 

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