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Bill restricting prime ministers to 8 years in office cleared for final votes

Proposal to return to plenum for 2nd and 3rd readings after winning backing of Knesset committee; Sa’ar: ‘Limiting terms instead of unlimited terms’

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar attends a ceremony for the new attorney general, on February 8, 2022, in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar attends a ceremony for the new attorney general, on February 8, 2022, in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A Knesset panel on Tuesday advanced for final approval a bill that would limit prime ministers to eight years in office.

After winning the backing of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, the bill will return to the Knesset for its second and third readings to be passed into law.

The proposal, which is being pushed by Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, was inspired by opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in power for more than a decade before being replaced in June by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

“Limiting terms instead of unlimited terms,” Sa’ar tweeted after Tuesday’s committee vote.

The proposed amendment would force a prime minister to step down after eight consecutive years in power, requiring the formation of a new government, though not necessarily new elections.

The bill also bars a person from being premier even if they have served two non-consecutive terms as prime minister, if no more than three years separate the tenures. If the gap between the tenures is more than three years, the eight-year counter is reset, according to the bill.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a Knesset plenum session, on February 7, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Netanyahu’s Likud party has denounced the proposal as an effort to prevent him regaining the premiership. However, if approved, the eight-year term limit would not apply retroactively, and thus not block now-opposition leader Netanyahu from returning to power.

Cumulatively, Netanyahu has served as prime minister for 15 years, 12 of them consecutively since 2009. He is currently on trial in three corruption cases, though he denies any wrongdoing.

Sa’ar insists that the bill is not aimed personally at Netanyahu, though he is also working on legislation that would rule out as a potential premier anyone indicted for a crime that comes with a minimum three-year sentence and moral turpitude.

Were he convicted of such a crime, such a law would apply to Netanyahu and would keep him out of the prime minister’s seat.

A separate bill limiting the terms of mayors will also be advanced later, Sa’ar has said. It too would limit them to two terms, but allow a third term if they receive more than 50 percent of the vote.

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