The heads of the emerging new coalition were expected to meet Wednesday amid frantic efforts to finalize an agreement within two days on legislation that would set term limits on the prime minister, potentially curtailing Benjamin Netanyahu’s political career.
Channel 12 news reported Monday night that the 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. Such a law would only apply to Netanyahu, the only living prime minister who fits the description.
Prime minister-designate Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party issued a strong denial at the time, saying: “There is not and will not be any agreement on the matter of preventing running for the Knesset. 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.” Channel 12 news later claimed that Yamina had agreed to that law and backtracked following the outrage caused by the report.
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.
While Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu parties are pushing for a far-reaching law that could bar Netanyahu from running in the next Knesset election, Bennett’s Yamina is seeking a tamer version, Channel 12 reported.
The Haaretz daily said that following Yamina’s objections, the parties’ negotiating teams had agreed not to advance the version that would prevent a longtime premier from running for parliament.
The report said the law had been proposed by New Hope — which views term limits as insufficient — and was aimed at preventing Netanyahu from working to topple the coalition, since it would effectively oust him from the Knesset in the following election.
The parties have been seeking to achieve similar results via a different formula.
One of the key questions being discussed, according to Haaretz, was when the law would take effect and whether it would apply retroactively to Netanyahu’s terms. That would affect the legal feasibility of the law, which if passed is virtually certain to come up for debate in the High Court of Justice.
The prospective coalition party heads were said to be in agreement that the matter must be finalized by Thursday night so that it can be included in the coalition agreements, which must be made public by Friday.
The proposed move apparently aims at blocking continued parliamentary service on the part of Israel’s longest-serving leader, Netanyahu, who has been 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 its 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.
“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 on Sunday in a meeting that will start at 4 p.m., with the parties in the prospective coalition holding a wafer-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, Lapid.