In a bid to increase political pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the opposition is planning to propose a bill that would force a sitting premier to resign if indicted on criminal charges.
Current Israeli law does not necessitate a prime minister resign unless convicted in a court of law.
Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson, who is spearheading the bill, noted that when then-prime minister Ehud Olmert was under investigation for alleged criminal offenses in 2007, Netanyahu, then head of the opposition, supported a similar bill, though it eventually fell through.
“Sixty-one MKs, and a majority of coalition members voted in favor” of such a bill in 2008, Hasson told Channel 2 news. “I expect the same standards from the current coalition and Likud members — particularly those who voted for the [previous] bill.”
Coalition chairman David Bitan said he opposed the bill, telling Channel 2 news the situation was “completely different now.” He claimed that the current investigations into Netanyahu were the result of “pressure by the left and the media” to indict Netanyahu and were part of “an unfair process.”
Many in the opposition have called on Netanyahu to resign in the face of mounting criminal probes.
Labor party chief Avi Gabbay said earlier this month that “the citizens of Israel deserve a different leadership.”
Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah has called on coalition members to drop their support for Netanyahu, saying they too would be ousted from government if they do not abandon the prime minister.
“Anyone who preserves Netanyahu’s collapsing government will fall with him in the end,” he said in a statement, adding that “an indictment against the prime minister is no longer a question of if but when.”
Meretz party leader Zehava Galon has also called on coalition lawmakers to stop serving as Netanyahu’s “protective armor.”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, whose Jewish Home party sits in the coalition, has said that “if we arrive at a situation in which an indictment is served, the coalition parties will sit down and consider what to do.”
She told the Ynet news website earlier this month that the law does not force Netanyahu to resign if he is indicted in either of the investigations into alleged financial and political corruption.
“According to the law, the prime minister does not need to step down, so let’s wait and see what happens.”
The prime minister is under investigation in two major cases.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, through Knesset legislation in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
A key associate of the prime minister signed a deal on August 4 to turn state’s witness as part of the ongoing investigations into alleged corruption by the premier.
Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and aide, Ari Harow, is expected to provide information in both probes.