Blue and White helps sink bill barring PM under indictment, which it initiated
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Blue and White helps sink bill barring PM under indictment, which it initiated

Centrist party mocked by its former allies for opposing proposal it introduced before joining Netanyahu-led government

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset plenum on May 17, 2020, as their new coalition was sworn in. (Knesset)
Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset plenum on May 17, 2020, as their new coalition was sworn in. (Knesset)

A bill that would require Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign due to the criminal indictments against him was voted down Wednesday by the Knesset.

Among the parties that opposed the bill was Blue and White, which in March submitted the legislative proposal together with Yisrael Beytenu before deciding to join a Netanyahu-led government in a surprise reversal. Blue and White leader Benny Gantz campaigned on replacing Netanyahu and his decision to form a coalition with the premier led to the splintering of his centrist alliance.

The bill, submitted by Yisrael Beytenu MK Eli Avidar, was defeated 60-23 in a preliminary reading.

Besides requiring a prime minister to resign within 30 days of being indicted, the bill would have also forced ministers and deputy ministers to leave office a day after charges are filed against them.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid at the Knesset as the 35th government of Israel is presented on May 17, 2020. (Knesset/Adina Veldman)

While a 1993 High Court of Justice ruling requires ministers or deputy ministers to resign if indicted, prime ministers do not have to do so.

Gantz, who is now defense minister and alternate prime minister, was mocked during the vote by his former ally, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid.

“This is the original document of this bill that was signed and submitted in March. The first signature is Benny Gantz, and the second is Avi Nissenkorn, who is now the justice minister of Israel,” Lapid said.

During the plenum session, Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman and Communications Minister David Amsalem traded barbs over the bill.

Amsalem, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, accused the hawkish Liberman of acting out of personal animus toward Netanyahu and “joining with [Joint List MK Heba] Yazbak… who glorifies martyrs.” The Likud minister was referring to a 2015 Facebook post shared by Yazbak praising a slain terrorist.

“You’ve been reduced to prostitution,” Liberman said of Amsalem. “The things you said have no connection to reality.”

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman holds a press conference in Neve Ilan, near Jerusalem, on March 11, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Liberman also noted that when Ehud Olmert, Netanyahu’s predecessor as premier, was under investigation for suspected corruption (long before he was eventually indicted), Netanyahu called on him to step down.

Netanyahu, who has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, last month became the first serving Israeli premier to stand trial. He denies wrongdoing and claims without evidence the charges are an effort by political rivals, the media, police and prosecutors to force him from office.

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