The Knesset votes on the nation-state bill, July 19, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The controversial “Gideon Sa’ar bill” passed a preliminary vote in the Knesset on Wednesday after weeks of negotiation within the coalition.
The draft approved states that only after an election, the president will have to choose a party leader for the first attempt to form a government. This is what happened after every election in Israel’s history, but the law currently allows the president to choose any MK.
The dispute about the bill comes from a theory Netanyahu said he believed – without using specific names – that Sa’ar, a former senior Likud minister, and President Reuven Rivlin were conspiring to have the former become prime minister. Sa’ar and Rivlin emphatically denied this.
Presenting the bill, coalition chairman David Amsalem charged that “everyone automatically opposes this bill in a Pavlovian way just because it comes from Netanyahu.”
“Whoever wants to lower the level of politics gives the law a nickname so no one understands what it’s about,” Amsalem said. “The law wants something that is obvious, and I don’t understand the opponents.”
Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg represented the opposition and said that “the coalition is not doing anything other than preserving a corrupt prime minister’s seat. [This is] at the expense of the interests of the Likud just so the prime minister can avoid investigations.”
Zandberg called Likud MKs “spineless” and “suicidal.”
A previous version of the bill said that the president would have to appoint a party leader who received the most recommendations from other parties to become prime minister. This is also what happened in every election since the establishment of the state, but some in Kulanu and Bayit Yehudi felt the draft would limit the president too much.
Then, Avigdor Liberman resigned as defense minister, taking Yisrael Beytenu out of the coalition and leaving it with a one-seat majority, making it even more difficult for Netanyahu to get the bill passed.
Liberman said he would not support the proposal, because it is “totally personal.”
Last week, Amsalem changed the bill so that it would only be about a party leader being appointed prime minister, and the remaining coalition’s parties supported it.
However, after the preliminary reading, the parties agreed that they would reconvene before moving forward with the bill.
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