In Heated Debate, Ministers Advance Bill Barring Netanyahu From Forming Government

Amir Ohana of Likud dubbed the bill, 'an act of terrorism against democracy,' while panel chairman Gilad Kariv said he did not intend to hold a vote on the bill, which is unlikely to pass in time to lock opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu from the premiership

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Chairman Gilad Kariv (Labor Party) at the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee debate on Sunday.
Chairman Gilad Kariv (Labor Party) at the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee debate on Sunday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee entered a heated shouting match on Sunday over a proposed alternative to the so-called "defendant's law," a bill which would prevent defendants in criminal cases from forming a government and would block opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu from the premiership if passed.

The law, proposed by Gaby Lasky of Meretz, was later approved by the committee, and will likely be brought before the Knesset for a preliminary reading on Wednesday.

During the meeting, committee chairman Gilad Kariv said he did not intend to hold a vote on the bill, just a discussion. "The discussion will address whether it is appropriate for the constitution committee to submit a proposal on its own behalf, prohibiting any person facing charges from" forming a government, he said.

Knesset member Amir Ohana (Likud) called the bill "an act of terrorism against democracy," adding sarcastically that he could suggest other "non-personal" proposals beyond the proposed bill, such as a ban on appointing any person prime minister if they didn't have 12 years of schooling, a suggestion targeting Yair Lapid.

Knesset member Gaby Lasky of Meretz charged that the bill was proposed before the decision to call new elections was made. "This isn't about right and left," she said.

Lawmaker Ahmad Tibi of the Joint List said that the bill has been blocked by the ruling coalition so far because of members who plotted to defect to the Likud like Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked. Tibi also said that Naftali Bennett himself vetoed the bill up until his announcement of dissolving the Knesset.

The Knesset's legal adviser is expected to warn the committee by Monday that the "defendant's law" would likely face major constitutional hurdles, potentially extinguishing the last-ditch effort to lock former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu out of the premiership.

An alternative proposal to dissolve the Knesset was also brought before the committee Sunday morning in order to circumvent the House Committee, headed by the defector MK Nir Orbach of Yamina.

On Monday, the House Committee is slated to debate 11 separate bills to dissolve the Knesset, but coalition sources worry that Orbach will hold up the bills in order to give the opposition a chance to establish an alternative government in the existing Knesset without going to elections.

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