With 5th election possible, anti-Netanyahu bloc mulls law banning him from race

Labor MK says party will make fresh effort to legislate against a person under criminal trial forming coalition; Liberman reportedly backs move, Sa’ar said open to possibility

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Lieberman speaks at the party headquarters in Modiin on election night, March 23, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Lieberman speaks at the party headquarters in Modiin on election night, March 23, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

With non-final results of the election signaling ongoing political deadlock and the prospect of yet another election, opposition figures are increasingly considering the possibility of passing a law to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from running again.

This would be achieved through legislation that prevents a person suspected of criminal wrongdoing from serving as prime minister. Such a scenario could only unfold if the anti-Netanyahu bloc of parties wins 61 seats in parliament — an outcome that has yet to be determined — and if all support the bill.

Omer Barlev, a former MK set to re-enter the Knesset with the Labor party, said Wednesday his faction would push the legislation.

According to the Maariv daily, Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman has been urging other party leaders in the bloc of Netanyahu opponents to use their apparent majority to “take over the Knesset” and pass such a law.

The unsourced report said Liberman has spoken to many senior members of the anti-Netanyahu bloc and told them: “We must replace the Knesset speaker, and take control of the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee, Finance Committee and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.”

MK Omer Barlev of the Labor Party speaks at the Party conference marking the party’s 50th anniversary in Tel Aviv, April 24, 2018. (Gili Yaari/FLASH90)

He said that even if the differences between the various parties make forming a coalition together impossible, they can collaborate to pass a law to disqualify Netanyahu.

According to Channel 12, the anti-Netanyahu bloc also wants to choose Israel’s next president, a largely ceremonial role, who is set to be elected by Knesset vote this summer.

Netanyahu’s inability to form a stable, functioning government and refusal to quit has led Israel to four elections in two years. Concurrently, he has increasingly attacked and sought to undermine the judicial system as he stands trial for alleged corruption.

This has led a growing number of politicians from across the political spectrum to say they will refuse to join him in government.

The notion of blocking Netanyahu from running again over his criminal proceedings was raised by politicians in the past, particularly in the wake of the September 2019 and March 2020 elections, but did not manage to gain enough traction.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to his supporters after the first exit poll results for Knesset elections at his Likud party’s headquarters in Jerusalem, March 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

However, if the anti-Netanyahu bloc manages to secure at least 61 seats when the final results are in, but cannot form a coalition sans Netanyahu, there may be a growing appetite for such a move in order to escape the ongoing political crisis.

According to the Walla news site, New Hope’s Gideon Sa’ar, who previously said he opposed such legislation, has said in recent days he may come around if it is not retroactive, and only applies to the next election.

As of Wednesday evening, with 88 percent of votes tallied, the pro-Netanyahu bloc had only 52 seats in the Knesset, with the Yamina (7) and Ra’am (5) parties potentially supporting him. If Ra’am joins the bloc opposing the premier (56), it will have a 61-seat majority in parliament.

Some 450,000 absentee votes have yet to be counted and could significantly change the picture even if they move only one or two seats from one bloc to the other. Those votes will begin being counted Wednesday night, with a final result expected Friday.

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