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Ministers to vote Sunday on bill setting term limits for PM

Legislation proposed by Gideon Sa’ar would only apply to future PMs, meaning Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier, could run for office again

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar leads a New Hope faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on November 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar leads a New Hope faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on November 8, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A bill setting term limits for the position of prime minister that would limit a premier from serving for more than eight years in total will be brought for a preliminary vote on Sunday, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced Thursday.

“On Sunday, I will bring for the approval of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation the bill to limit the term of a prime minister to eight years. Another clause in New Hope’s platform and the coalition agreements that we are keeping to,” Sa’ar tweeted on Thursday.

The proposed bill would not be applied retroactively, and therefore would not prevent Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu from again running for office.

Cumulatively, Netanyahu has previously been prime minister for 14 years, 12 of them consecutively since 2009. He is currently on trial in three corruption cases, though he denies any wrongdoing.

Setting term limits, and potentially curtailing Netanyahu’s political career, was a key element in negotiations to form the current coalition government, which is led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of the Yamina party. Sa’ar also serves as deputy premier.

Channel 13 news reported that Sa’ar reached an agreement with Bennett on Tuesday to advance the bill.

Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on August 2 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Sa’ar insists that the bill is not aimed personally at Netanyahu, though he is also working on legislation banning anyone who is facing indictments from running for office.

Such a law would currently only apply to Netanyahu, the only living prime minister who fits the description, and would keep him not just out of the prime minister’s seat but also prevent him from being a member of Knesset. That proposal was said to be backed by the Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu parties, along with Sa’ar’s New Hope party.

There was no agreement regarding the proposal to ban a prime minister under indictment in Tuesday’s meeting between Bennett and Sa’ar, Channel 13 reported.

A separate bill limiting the terms of mayors would also be advanced later, Sa’ar tweeted on Thursday. It too would limit them to two terms, but allow a third term if they receive more than 50% of the votes.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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