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Though not retroactive, it was seen as anti-Netanyahu move

Sa’ar’s flagship PM-term-limit legislation dies, because coalition lacks the votes

Bill to limit a prime minister to 8 years requires 61 MKs to pass, but coalition has only 60; should gov’t want to revive it, entire legislative process would have to start over

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Gideon Sa'ar, head of the New Hope political party, speaks during the conference of the Israeli Television News Company in Jerusalem, on March 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Gideon Sa'ar, head of the New Hope political party, speaks during the conference of the Israeli Television News Company in Jerusalem, on March 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A bill to cap prime ministerial tenures to a period of eight continuous years quietly slipped off of the political arena on Monday, as the time period in which it needed to pass its final readings expired without it being brought to the Knesset floor.

The brainchild of Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, the bill was slated for the Knesset’s summer session after failing to come for its final readings in March. As an amendment to a quasi-constitutional basic law, the bill would have required the support of 61 MKs to pass.

However, the coalition lost its majority during the Passover recess and with a shaky alliance of only 60 MKs, it would have required outside support from the opposition to pass the bill.

Even though the now-lapsed bill’s restrictions would not apply retroactively, the bill was controversial because it was seen as a move against opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who holds the title of Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. Once an ally in Likud, Sa’ar ran a failed campaign against Netanyahu for the right-wing party’s leadership and the two now have a contentious relationship.

Several former Netanyahu confidants-turned-rivals have found refuge in the coalition, which formed its diverse, eight-party alliance upon a foundation of preventing the then-prime minister from maintaining power.

Among them is Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, who like Sa’ar, formed his own party after defecting from Likud amid struggles with its longtime leader.

Former prime minister MK Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a court hearing in his trial, at the District Court in Jerusalem on May 17, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Speaking at his Monday faction meeting, Liberman said it was “disappointing” that the bill would not be brought for a vote.

“It is disappointing, but it is not the fault of Yisrael Beytenu,” the finance minister said. “We support it, but the coalition is not in full agreement. What matters most is keeping the government together and not dragging the country to another election. That is our first priority.”

Should the coalition later choose to revive the bill, it would need to start the legislative process anew.

Another proposal understood to be aimed at Netanyahu, a bill supported by maverick Yisrael Beytenu MK Eli Avidar to block politicians under indictment from forming a government, is stalled and similarly not expected to pass this Knesset term.

“Heads of the change coalition, for months I have demanded to pass the bill [against the indicted]. You said ‘there is time,’ ‘Why now?’ ‘We know what to do,'” tweeted Avidar, who has been almost single-minded in the past weeks in promoting the bill.

“We lost public trust,” he wrote.

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