Blue & White electoral reform bills could thwart unity government efforts
A legislative package of electoral reforms, seen by Blue and White as plugging up legal loopholes that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used to his advantage, could be another significant obstacle on the way to a unity government with the Likud, as Blue and White leader Benny Gantz tries to build a coalition.
The party submitted three bills, signed by all 33 of its MKs, on October 3 – the day of the 21st Knesset’s inauguration. All of the bills are amendments to Basic Law: Government.
The first would require a prime minister, minister or deputy minister to resign immediately upon being indicted for a crime that involves moral turpitude.
Were the bill to pass, it could apply to Netanyahu, who is likely to be indicted in mid-November on possible charges of breach of trust, fraud and bribery. Blue and White has said publicly that it will not sit with Netanyahu as long as he has a recommended or actual indictment against him, though party sources have indicated that Gantz would be willing to enter a rotation for the premiership under certain circumstances.
“The minute we can pass [the law], we’ll pass it,” Blue and White’s spokesman said on Wednesday.
It’s unclear whether Blue and White would have a majority in the current Knesset to support the bill, since Netanyahu has a 55-seat bloc supporting him, and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, with another seven seats behind him and legal troubles in his past, has generally said Netanyahu is innocent until proven guilty.
But the chairmanship of the Knesset Arrangements Committee is expected to move from Likud MK Miki Zohar to Blue and White, which has yet to decide who will take the job. The change will allow the party to set the Knesset’s agenda until a coalition is formed and permanent legislative committees are established.
Blue and White’s MKs argue in the bill’s explanatory portion that having a prime minister battle serious corruption charges while in office “is in total contradiction of the necessary moral norms for an elected official.”
This situation “has implications for the prime minister’s status and that of the entire government, its ability to lead and serve as an example to the entire public – and, most importantly, regarding the public’s trust in the system of government.
“A prime minister serving while dealing with an indictment could mix national and personal interests,” the bill states.
Another Blue and White electoral reform bill would ban anyone convicted of a crime carrying moral turpitude from becoming a prime minister, regular minister, deputy minister or mayor.
Yesh Atid, one of the parties making up Blue and White, previously proposed the legislation after Arye Deri returned to the Interior Ministry, the same position from which he accepted bribes. Deri served 22 months in prison for his crime. Another minister who committed a crime carrying moral turpitude is Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi.
“Corruption is a strategic threat to Israeli democracy and society,” the bill’s explanatory section reads. “Corruption undermines the public’s trust in government institutions and the democratic system... it eats away at equal opportunities... [and] hurts social unity, quality of life...and economic growth.
The final bill in the package would impose term limits for a prime minister, who would be able to serve either two terms or up to eight years. Netanyahu has been prime minister for 13 years, 10 of which were consecutive.