Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced Thursday night that if Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided to press charges against him he will resign from office. The question remains – can he be forced to resign while the investigation in pending? Ynet reviews several possible scenarios.
Votes of nonconfidence: Should the right circumstances present themselves, the Knesset can dissolve the government. The Knesset holds weekly votes of nonconfidence, which are usually crushed. In order for a vote of nonconfidence to dissolve the government, 61 Members of Knesset must support the motion and name one candidate – and one only – to form a new government during a preset time period.
If the person chosen for the task fail to form a government, a new general election may be called. The Knesset is currently on hiatus and will be back in session on May 19.
Dissolving the Knesset: The Knesset can vote to dissolve itself, in which case the government becomes a transitional one. Several MKs have brought motions to that effect before the house and should a majority be found, the motions may be able to pass all three of their required readings on the same day.
Any motion to dissolve the Knesset must carry a proposed election date – which required a consensus from all major parties.
The law also allows the prime minister to right to dissolve the Knesset, should he find a majority of the house opposes the government, thus abstracting the due process of governing; and as long as he has the president's consent to the move.
In such cases, the Knesset can stop the move if 61 MKs agree on an alterative candidate to form a new government.
Right of suspension
According to the law, if Olmert resigns, the government – de facto – will follow. Should that happen, the president will assign the task of forming a new government on an agreed-upon MK.
But what if no indictment is filed? Should the right circumstances present themselves here, the prime minister can leave office based on the temporary suspension clause in Basic Law: The Government. The clause stipulates that if for any reason a presiding prime minister is unable to perform his duties, his deputy can temporarily take over office.
The law does not stipulate how temporary suspension is decided on, nor doest it give any governmental body the authority to actively implement the clause.
Since the law does not offer any remedies, the assumption is that the prime minister can choose to go on temporary suspension; however, the attorney general can – under extraordinary circumstances – order a prime minister to do so. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz is unlikely to exercise the right.
The only time Mazuz invokes his authority on the matter was right after Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke; in which time he was declared temporary unable to perform his duties due to illness.
The last time the Knesset hasdto debate a temporary suspension was in early 2007, when Former President Moshe Katsav chose to suspend himself pending the results of the investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. The Knesset House Committee approves the requests, granting Katsav 100 days of temporary suspension.
Should Olmert choose to temporarily suspend himself from office, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will become acting prime minister. Should Olmert fail to resume office in 100 days time, he will be declared "permanently unable to perform his duties."