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‘Change bloc’ bill said to call a lengthy PM tenure ‘democratic market failure’

TV network doubles down on report that Yamina agreed to law that would require Netanyahu to undergo 4-year cooling-off period outside Knesset, then backtracked

In this November 24, 2019, photo, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (right) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visit an army base in the Golan Heights, on the Israeli-Syrian border. (Atef Safadi/Pool via AP)
In this November 24, 2019, photo, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (right) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visit an army base in the Golan Heights, on the Israeli-Syrian border. (Atef Safadi/Pool via AP)

A leading news outlet on Tuesday stood by its report that the emerging coalition had agreed on a law that would prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from running in the next Knesset election, despite a strong denial by the Yamina party, publishing the purported text of proposed legislation on the matter.

Channel 12 news reported Monday night that the political parties in the emerging “change government” seeking to unseat Netanyahu had agreed to advance a law preventing a two-term prime minister from running for a parliament seat for four years. Netanyahu’s Likud party reacted furiously to the report, calling the proposal “akin to the dictates of North Korea or Iran.” Such a law would only apply to Netanyahu, the only living prime minister who fits the description.

“There is not and will not be any agreement on the matter of preventing running for the Knesset,” Yamina said in response to the report. “This is a proposal that was made, wasn’t agreed on, and won’t happen. The only thing that was agreed on is capping a prime minister’s tenure at eight years or two terms.”

The party also said that other parts of the network’s report on the coalition deals were inaccurate and some were only relevant to earlier drafts. It said the coalition deals — announced last week — were still undergoing revisions and would be made public once they were finalized.

The Walla news site said Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope had sought legislation barring Netanyahu from running again for Knesset, seeing term limits as insufficient. Yesh Atid backed the move, but Yamina ultimately thwarted the bid and prevented its inclusion in the coalition deals, the report said. The parties decided on introducing a two-term limit instead.

But on Tuesday, Channel 12 cited a coalition source as saying Yamina had in fact agreed to support that law and only backtracked after the outrage that followed Monday night’s report.

Furthermore, the network published what it said was the text of the bill, which refers to a long tenure of a prime minister as a “democratic market failure that has to be dealt with.”

The ostensible legislation would prevent a prime minister who served for at least eight consecutive years from running for the Knesset for the following four years.

“The proposed law makes use of the ‘cooling-off period’ mechanism, which is accepted in the Israeli legislative system, to prevent someone who was in power positions for a long time from continued political activity for a set period, and thus guarantee personal changeover in the role of prime minister,” the bill reportedly says.

“The cooling-off period is the only effective mechanism that can fulfill the law’s purpose.”

MK Karine Elharrar seen during a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 24, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Yesh Atid MK Karine Elharrar denied Tuesday that the nascent government was set to pass a “personal law” targeting Netanyahu.

Speaking with Radio 103FM, she said: “I must admit I haven’t seen this specific law. It came up in a media report… In my view, a person facing criminal charges cannot serve as prime minister.”

A document listing the new would-be government’s guiding principles that was released Monday included an agreement to introduce a term limit for prime ministers, capping it at two terms or eight years, whichever is longer, but not restrictions on running for Knesset nor a cooling-off period.

The proposed move apparently aims at blocking continued parliamentary service on the part of Israel’s longest-serving leader, Netanyahu, who has served as premier for the past 12 years as well as in 1996-1999 and is currently on trial in three corruption cases. It remains unclear whether such a law could apply retroactively.

In a statement on Monday, Netanyahu’s Likud party said Bennett and Lapid were “turning Israel into a dark dictatorship with personal laws aimed at Prime Minister Netanyahu, akin to the dictates of North Korea or Iran.”

Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he votes at a polling station in Jerusalem on March 23, 2021, in the fourth national election in two years. (RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP)

“After Bennett deceived his own electorate by transferring votes from right to left only to appoint himself prime minister with six seats, he is now proposing laws that don’t exist in any democracy in the world, with the aim of disqualifying PM Netanyahu from running for Knesset and thus taking down the right-wing leader.

“Bennett is crossing every red line in his mad quest for the prime minister’s seat at any cost. PM Netanyahu fights Iran while Bennett and Lapid propose laws from Iran,” it said.

The Knesset is set to hold a vote of confidence in the new government by June 14, with the parties in the prospective coalition holding a razor-thin majority of 61 of the 120 votes. If confirmed, the unlikely alliance of right-wing, left-wing, centrist, and Islamist parties would remove Netanyahu from power, to be replaced by Yamina’s Bennett, and, two years later, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid.

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