Members of Kahol Lavan plan to promote a bill barring indicted officials to serve as prime minister to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party to join a unity government headed by Benny Gantz.
A potential wording of the bill, which is in fact an amendment to the Basic Law on the Government, would state that “the president cannot assign the formation of a government to a member of Knesset who is under indictment on which the court has not ruled by that time.”
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However, Kahol Lavan officials admit that the chances of the bill passing are lower than the chances of another election.
The bill can’t move ahead before the new Knesset is sworn in on March 16, and in any case the bloc of parties supporting such a bill must include at least 61 lawmakers. For the bill to be passed, Kahol Lavan would have to gain the support of all the members of Yisrael Beiteinu and the Joint List, including those belonging to Balad.
Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman sent conflicting signals in the last Knesset. He ruled out passing significant legislation until a stable government was established, but he subsequently voted to end Netanyahu’s immunity from prosecution. Lieberman’s consent for the bill, together with that of the members of the Joint List, would allow it to pass in the Knesset. Lieberman has already said that on Thursday he will announce his party’s decision on how to proceed.
But a majority for the bill is not enough. Kahol Lavan will have to gain control of the Knesset committee that makes various decisions right after an election and to have the bill move through the four stages of its legislation. For a Kahol Lavan lawmaker to become chairman of this committee, the president would have to appoint Gantz to form a government and to believe that such a law would best ensure the formation of a stable government. If the president charges Netanyahu with forming a government first, Likud’s control of the Knesset committee would stymie the advancement of the bill.
Another move that the center-left will have to consider is ousting the Knesset speakers. Yuli Edelstein, who has been at this post since the Knesset that was sworn in on March 31, 2015, might not make it possible for the legislative body to meet for the purpose of choosing someone to replace him who would be in favor of the bill.
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Naftali Bennet, chairman of Yamina, attacked the initiative. “The idea to pass a bill after the election and after the public had its say, a personal law that would prevent Netanyahu from serving as prime minister is a disgrace and breaking every rule of the political system.”
Netanyahu supported in 2008 a bill to oust a prime minister who has been indicted, during the period that Ehud Olmert was facing legal problems as prime minister. He voted for its preliminary reading, but the bill never went forward.