Bennett says he will vote against a bill that will block Netanyahu from serving as prime minister

Written by Javed Iqbal

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Wednesday that he will vote against a bill that would prevent a lawmaker accused of a serious crime from becoming prime minister.

After Bennett and Secretary of State Yair Lapid announced on Monday that they decided to dissolve the coalition in the midst of its struggles to function properly, several parties supporting the government decided to move forward with the controversial legislation. The bill is widely perceived as targeting opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who is being prosecuted for criminal charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

A public servant convicted of fraud and breach of trust risks a minimum of three years in prison, while a convicted of bribery risks 10 years in prison or a fine.

“The right to vote and to be elected is sacred and constitutes the very essence of democracy,” Bennett wrote in a tweet about the proposed legislation. “Although we have seen that there is a high price for a criminal defendant serving a sentence [as prime minister]those who have the last word are the citizens of Israel. ”

“Certainly on the threshold of an election – there is no room to change the rules of the game. Instead, people should be allowed to decide in the ballot box. I am convinced that they will make the right choice,” the prime minister added.

Bennett had blocked the legislation from advancing through his year in office, disappointing several coalition parties campaigning to pass the law. But as coalition discipline is no longer a consideration for factions ready for new elections, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party announced on Wednesday that it would seek a vote in the Knesset on the bill as soon as possible.

If passed, the bill would block any Knesset member charged with a crime that includes a minimum sentence of three years and a moral rejection clause from being required by the president to assemble a government, such as Netanyahu.

Although Bennett’s relationship with Netanyahu has deteriorated further over the past year, with the opposition chief regularly questioning the prime minister’s legitimacy to hold the post, the prime minister’s position on the bill has not seemed to change.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a statement before entering a courtroom at the Jerusalem District Court on May 24, 2020 to begin his corruption trial. Next to him from the left are Likud MPs and ministers including Amir Ohana, Miri Regev, Nir Barkat, Israel Katz, Tzachi Hanegbi and Yoav Gallant. (Yonathan Sindel / Flash90)

While at least part of Bennett’s Yamina party is expected to vote against the bill, six other coalition parties are intended to support it in addition to the majority-Arab joint-list party in the opposition. The bill would need the support of the coalition’s Ra’am party to be passed, although faction members have not made clear how they would vote.

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. That legislation can be passed already on Monday, and from then on the Folketing can not consider further bills.

Also on Wednesday, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced that it would bring a bill to limit the time one can sit as prime minister to eight years for a vote on Sunday. The bill was tabled earlier this year but expired after the coalition failed to rally a majority to get it approved through final consideration. Sa’ar is now making one last attempt to pass the law in the current Knesset, although its chances of being passed appear to be particularly low given the limited time left.

Although the bill’s restrictions would not apply retroactively, the bill has caused controversy because it was seen as targeting Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. Sa’ar, who was once an ally of Likud, ran a failed campaign against Netanyahu for the right-wing party’s leadership, and the two now have a disputed relationship, as most leaders of the collapsing coalition do with the former prime minister.

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Javed Iqbal

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