Government Advances Bill that Will Block Netanyahu’s Return

On Sunday, a Knesset legal adviser informed lawmakers that with elections on the horizon, it was best not to introduce a controversial bill that aims to block politicians from forming a government, if they have criminal charges against them.

Coalition moves ahead

Regardless of the advice, the coalition decided to move ahead with the legislation, which is essentially a long-shot. If the bill was to be approved, it would mean that Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the opposition, will not be able to become prime minister again. The coalition wants to fast track this bill ahead of the dissolution of the Knesset in this week.

The bill has been discussed quite a lot, but has not been advanced as yet, and it aims to make amendments to a quasi-constitutional law. The change would mean that an individual indicted for a serious crime would not be able to become premier. Netanyahu is the chief rival of the outgoing politician and there are currently three cases of corruption ongoing against him.

The bill’s supporters have received criticism from Netanyahu’s supporters for personally targeting him and now trying to change the rules with elections ahead. Those who are in favor of the law have said that a criminal defendant should not be permitted to hold Israel’s highest political office.

Problematic to take it forward

On Sunday morning, the Constitutional, Law and Justice Committee was told by a legal adviser of the Knesset that taking the legislation forward is ‘problematic’, considering that elections will happen soon. Gur Blai said that legislating such a law was not a good idea.

The committee had come together for discussing the merits of imposing a ban on criminal defendants from running in the elections. However, the committee did not come to a conclusion about whether they would come up with their own bill.

Labor party’s Gilad Kariv is the head of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. He highlighted that when it had politically benefitted Netanyahu, he had also chosen to set guardrails around the qualifications of candidates vying for the position of the prime minister. Kariv also added that Netanyahu had not wanted some specific people to become part of the political arena.

Therefore, he had introduced cooling-off laws for senior commanders of the Israeli Defense Forces as well as senior civil servants. He was referring to the rule that requires these individuals to wait for two years before they can jump into politics.

Vote in favor

Even though Blai expressed his concerns, the two proposals for banning criminal defendants got the green signal from the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. While it does not advance bills formally, the committee decides if the legislation put forward by individual lawmakers will receive the coalition’s support or not.

Eli Avidar tweeted that he was pleased with the decision and hoped that it would advance quickly and not be used as a bargaining chip. He said that the first reading of the bill should be scheduled soon and there should be no delays.

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