The Knesset ratified on Thursday a law that restricts the conditions under which an Israeli prime minister can be removed, legislation that opponents of incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu say is designed to shield him from facing legal heat from his ongoing corruption trial.
The bill, which became law after clearing second and third hearings with 61 lawmakers voting in favor to 47 against, stipulates that a sitting prime minister can only be declared unfit and forced to step down if they or three-quarters of cabinet ministers declare them so on physical or psychological grounds.
The legislation was rushed through the Israeli parliament due to Netanyahu allies’ fears that the Supreme Court would force the conservative leader to take a leave of absence as his government’s push to overhaul the judicial system may place him in a conflict of interest pertaining to his legal woes.
Although the coalition and the opposition agreed to cap deliberations on the bill at 16 hours, the opposition recognized at a certain point that the coalition might not have the required majority to push through the legislation and filibustered the session that was scheduled to end Wednesday afternoon until 6am the following morning.
Netanyahu is facing charges of taking bribes, fraud, and breach of trust. He denies any wrongdoing and claims that the legal proceedings against him are part of an orchestrated campaign by left-wing prosecutors and media to remove him from power.
Should his case come before the Supreme Court, this law would prevent the court from removing him from office. Critics argue that Netanyahu's legislative agenda, which includes proposals to have judges elected by politicians, including Supreme Court Justices, is driven by his own legal troubles.
Until his indictment, he had previously blocked attempts by allies and political partners to weaken the courts.