search

Bill to anchor Netanyahu-Gantz premiership rotation gets preliminary okay

Knesset committee expected to be formed to prepare legislation for 3 more readings before May 7; only 31% of Israelis believe PM will vacate seat voluntarily in 18 months

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at a memorial ceremony marking 24 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, in the Knesset, November 10, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at a memorial ceremony marking 24 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, in the Knesset, November 10, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset on Thursday gave its preliminary approval to legislation meant to anchor in law a deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz to rotate the premiership as part of the unity government announced this week.

Lawmakers voted on a bill meant to make the terms of the shared premiership binding, including Netanyahu being forced to step down in October 2021 and be replaced by Gantz for 1.5 years.

Current Israeli law doesn’t include a mechanism for a rotating premiership, and such a government in the 1980s was based entirely on the first prime minister voluntarily resigning after the agreed period.

The legality of the bill, and other aspects of the Netanyahu-Gantz coalition deal signed on Monday, are being challenged at the High Court of Justice.

A Channel 13 poll this week found that only 31 percent of the public believed Netanyahu would honor the rotation deal requiring him to vacate the Prime Minister’s Office; 41% said they believe he won’t do so and 23% said they didn’t know.

In the preliminary reading vote Thursday, 62 lawmakers supported the bill while 37 opposed it. However, the bill still has three more readings to pass before it becomes law.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, who is interim Knesset speaker, speaks in the plenum hall of the Knesset on February 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

First, it will need to be discussed in a Knesset committee, with a special panel expected to be formed to that end. The new coalition is aiming to pass the law before May 7, when the Knesset’s mandate to form a coalition expires, the Haaretz daily reported.

Despite running on a campaign to oust Netanyahu from power, Gantz announced last month that he was prepared to join a government with the Likud leader after all — to battle the coronavirus pandemic and help protect Israeli democracy.

His move caused a split in his party, with former partners Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon breaking away with their allies. Lapid is now set to lead the Knesset opposition.

Lapid on Tuesday accused Gantz of perpetrating “the worst act of fraud in the history of this country” by joining forces with Netanyahu.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sign their unity government agreement on April 20, 2020. (courtesy)

Gantz later defended his decision, saying he would have preferred a “different government,” but joining Netanyahu was the responsible thing to do given the pandemic sweeping the globe.

“Some wanted to continue to move toward more and more elections and perhaps score political points… I and my colleagues could not stand by,” he said in a tacit criticism of his former political allies who chose not to join him in the new government.

Under the terms of the deal struck Monday, ending over a year of political deadlock during which Israel has not had a permanent government, Gantz will become prime minister in 18 months. Until then, he will serve as defense minister and have veto power over most legislative and policy matters.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed