Saar draws fire from both sides over bill to stop Netanyahu

Analysis: Justice minister's proposal, if approved, would stop former PM and opposition leader from forming government in future; bill bans anyone charged with crime punishable by more than 3 years in prison from becoming premier

Tova Zimuki, Yuval Karni|
Shortly after Justice Minister Gideon Saar's published late Tuesday the draft of his bill, seeking to restrict a lawmaker under a criminal indictment from becoming prime minister, the irate reactions from Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party definitely did not leave us wanting.
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  • Although the draft was only unveiled this week, Ynet’s sister publication Yedioth Ahronoth reported back in July about the justice minister's intentions to table such a bill before the Knesset.
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    גדעון סער בישיבת סיעה של תקווה חדשה
    גדעון סער בישיבת סיעה של תקווה חדשה
    Gideon Saar
    (Photo:Alex Kolomoisky)
    The bill apparently already got the approval of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who is also expected to defend it before the Supreme Court if a petition was to be filed against it.
    If we were to give Saar's bill a quick overview, it basically says that any lawmaker facing indictment cannot form a government if he is charged with an offense punishable by more than three years in prison.
    The law, however, allows the chairman of the Central Elections Committee to approve the imposition of the mandate [to form a government] on that lawmaker if it is determined that despite the charges, the candidate conducted him-or herself in an "honorable" manner.
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    גדעון סער ובנימין נתניהו
    גדעון סער ובנימין נתניהו
    Gideon Saar and Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
    In addition, the bill prevents any legislator charged with an offense punishable by more than three years in prison to participate in a vote approving a new government or hold a position as alternate prime minister.
    Just to remind you, Opposition Leader Netanyahu has been indicted on charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery - an offense punishable by more than three years in prison.
    Saar's draft bill is expected to be put to a Knesset vote once the state budget is approved, and if okayed, supposed to take effect in the next government.
    "It is our duty to make better regime changes for the future, which will strengthen Israel's values as a Jewish and democratic state," said Saar.
    In response, the Likud party harshly attacked Saar, saying his New Hope party "barely scratches" the electoral threshold. "He proposes an anti-democratic law like in Iran, that seeks to disqualify those who receive 35 seats, and are supported by millions of citizens as their representative for prime minister, what a disgrace."
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    בנימין נתניהו
    בנימין נתניהו
    Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch)
    "His hatred for Netanyahu leads him to target and spoil the Israeli democracy," said Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionist party.
    Saar responded to the criticism on Twitter, writing, "when the Knesset unanimously approved the law to suspend mayors, directly elected by the public, not a single lawmaker argued the law was undemocratic. The bill I released sets an important moral norm, and the objection to the proposal is personal."
    On Wednesday, however, criticism also came from within the current government. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said during a conference that she opposes the bill.
    "I do not think the attorney general should decide who heads the cabinet," Shaked said, adding the bill will not be put up for a vote soon. "We agreed not to deal with it until the budget is passed and then we will decide."
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