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Yamina denies seeking law that would bar Netanyahu from running for Knesset

New Hope reportedly advocated for legislation that would require longtime PMs to submit to 4-year cooling-off period; Bennett’s party: It’s not part of coalition deals

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)
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)

Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party on Monday night denied that the emerging government’s guidelines or coalition deals would prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from running in Knesset elections in the future.

Channel 12 reported that the political parties seeking to unseat Netanyahu with the emerging “change government” had agreed to advance a law preventing a two-term prime minister from running for a parliament seat for four years after stepping down from the country’s highest office. The report was harshly criticized by Netanyahu’s Likud party, which claimed the proposal was “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.

The television report came as a document of the new would-be government’s guiding principles detailed an agreement to introduce a term limit for prime ministers, capping it at two terms or eight years, whichever is longer, but no restrictions on running for Knesset or a cooling-off period.

The proposed moves are aimed at stymieing Israel’s longest-serving leader, Netanyahu has served as premier for the past 12 years, and in 1996-1999, and is currently on trial in three corruption cases. It remains unclear whether such laws could apply retroactively to hamstring Netanyahu.

Left to right: Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid (Miriam Alster/Flash90); Yamina party chief Naftali Bennett; and New Hope party head Gideon Sa’ar (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“This is not and won’t be any agreement on the matter of preventing running for the Knesset,” Yamina said. “This is a proposal that was made, wasn’t agreed on, and won’t happen. The only thing that was agreed 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 are inaccurate and some are only relevant to earlier drafts. It said the coalition deals — announced last week — are still undergoing constant changes and will be published once their contents are finalized.

The Walla news site on Monday night said Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope had sought the law 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.

(L-R) Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, Yamina chair Naftali Bennett and New Hope head Gideon Sa’ar at a meeting of the heads of the would-be-coalition in Tel Aviv, June 6, 2021. (Ra’anan Cohen)

In a statement on Monday, Netanyahu’s Likud said Bennett and Lapid are “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 mandates, 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 crosses 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 an Islamist party 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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