As time runs out, Netanyahu bloc pushing bill for PM direct election

Netanyahu holds a significant advantage over other prime minister candidates in polls.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the 2021 International Bible Contest for Youth on Thursday, Israel's Independence Day, April 15, 2021.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the 2021 International Bible Contest for Youth on Thursday, Israel's Independence Day, April 15, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel will hold another election, but only for prime minister, according to a bill submitted to Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin by Shas MKs Michael Malkieli and Moshe Arbel on Monday in an effort to save the premiership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to the bill, the winner of a direct election would automatically become prime minister of a caretaker government but would still need to build a coalition; otherwise Knesset elections would be initiated.
Because it would change a Basic Law, the support of 61 MKs would be needed to pass the bill. It is very unlikely the bill would get such support.
Netanyahu challenged Yamina leader Naftali Bennett to back the bill, telling the Likud faction a direct election for prime minister is the solution to the political crisis.
Israel elected its prime minister directly in 1996, 1999 and 2001. Netanyahu went against the Likud when he voted for direct elections 25 years ago.
Shas leader Arye Deri endorsed the idea, saying it could resolve the political deadlock.
“Four times we went to the polls,” he said. “Four times we made very great efforts for the Israeli government, and we are heading for a fifth election that will not yield a clear decision, other than to prepare for a sixth election.”
Netanyahu’s opponents in the so-called pro-change bloc expressed opposition to the idea.
New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar quoted Netanyahu as saying when he was opposition leader that “an electoral system is not a pair of socks that can be changed every day.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said a direct election would be a “fifth election that would further paralyze the country and continue the focus on Netanyahu.”
The only reason Netanyahu has proposed the idea is that he cannot form a government, he said, adding that a unity government without Netanyahu could be formed in three weeks.
In his Blue and White faction meeting, Defense Minister Benny Gantz ruled out direct elections for prime minister, calling it “changing the rules of the game during the game.”
Labor leader Merav Michaeli said the bill for direct elections was merely political spin designed to distract from government inactivity and that it is not a serious suggestion.
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman objected to the idea on social media, saying that “changing Basic Laws on demand is wrong.” He promised to oppose the bill if it benefits Netanyahu.
“Yes for changing the system of government, no for breaking the rules of the game,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that Netanyahu did the same thing a year ago, when Basic Laws were amended to allow for an alternating government between himself and Gantz. “But the second it wasn’t beneficial for Netanyahu, nothing stopped him from dragging the State of Israel to a fourth unnecessary round of elections.”
Tobias Siegal and Idan Zonshine contributed to this report.