Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman are pushing a bill banning anyone under criminal indictment from heading a government, asserting that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must not be allowed to return to office following Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid's decision on Monday to dissolve the Knesset.
The decision to dissolve the Knesset paves the way for Israel's fifth round of elections in three and a half years. In response, Sa’ar and Liberman ruled out joining forces with Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges he denies. Liberman said at a conference that coalition lawmakers may link the motion to dissolve the Knesset to a bill that would prevent anyone under criminal indictment from heading a government.
“The goal in the upcoming elections is clear: to prevent Netanyahu from returning to power and enslaving the state to his personal interests,” Sa'ar tweeted on Monday evening.
“Today's election is the result of intrigue, lies and subversion by one man named Benjamin Netanyahu and the main goal in the upcoming elections is to prevent him from returning to power,” tweeted Liberman.
“I hope that along with the law to dissolve the Knesset, a law will also be passed on the criminal defendant, in order to prevent a criminal defendant from being a candidate for prime minister," he added.
Coalition lawmakers, including those in Sa’ar and Liberman’s parties, believe that the chances of passing such legislation are next to nothing, and given the legal and political difficulties involved – it is unlikely that the Knesset will vote on such a measure before dissolving itself.
On Tuesday morning, Yisrael Beiteinu MK Eli Avidar tweeted that he, MK Osama Saadi and MK Ahmad Tibi had submitted just such a bill for consideration by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, declaring that “there is no moral justification to wait one more moment.”
“I’m glad the party leaders decided to join my initiative, even though they did it unfortunately too late.”
A previous bill, backed by Sa’ar, which would have set term limits for prime ministers failed to pass the Knesset earlier this year. Pursuing legislation to limit a prime minister's rule to eight years or two terms was a key component of the coalition agreement between Naftali Bennett's Yamina and Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid parties.
- Can we stop the elections? And five other questions looming over Israel
- As coalition falls, Netanyahu threatens Israeli democracy again
- First election poll favors Netanyahu, but neither bloc gets majority
If next week’s bill to dissolve the Knesset passes, Lapid will become the caretaker prime minister until elections are held on October 25th. He will remain foreign minister, while Bennett will hold the role of alternate prime minister, though sources close to the prime minister say that he is weighing retiring from politics altogether.
Netanyahu has hailed the decision to bring Israel to elections and pledged on Monday evening to establish "a broad, strong, and stable national government…that would bring back national pride."
Reuters contributed to this report.