Bill for term limits for Israeli prime minister fails to pass

Lapid, Liberman tell Post they're "disappointed" and "frustrated"

 Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen smiling at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 23, 2022. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen smiling at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 23, 2022.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The deadline for passing Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s bill that would limit prime ministers to eight years in office expired on Monday without the controversial legislation passing into law.

Sa’ar revealed the bill with great fanfare in October 2021. He succeeded in passing it in every reading in the Knesset plenum and in committee, except one by March.

However, former coalition chairwoman Idit Silman defected to the opposition, which doomed the bill. As a change to the Basic Law, it required the support of 61 MKs, and the coalition now numbers only 60. The Joint List was willing to support it from the opposition, but the Likud decided to turn the final reading into a vote of confidence in the current government, and the Joint List did not agree to endorse the government.

“It’s very frustrating,” Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid told The Jerusalem Post at Monday’s Yesh Atid faction meeting. “When we saw we were losing our majority, we saw this could happen. But we won’t give up on enacting term limits – if not now, then later.”

“We won't give up on enacting term limits – if not now, then later.”

Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid
 Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid is seen speaking at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 23, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid is seen speaking at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 23, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

“It is disappointing, but it is not because of Yisrael Beytenu," Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman told the Post at his faction meeting. “We support it, but there is not full agreement in the coalition. What matters most is keeping the government together and not dragging the country to another election. That is our first priority. I know what an election would do to our economy.”

The eight-year limit for prime ministers was not retroactive, which meant that even if it passed, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu could still be prime minister for eight more years. He is the only living Israeli who has served eight years as prime minister.

Likud reactions

Knesset members from opposition leader Netanyahu’s Likud Party had said they would be willing to vote for term limits for prime minister if the faction decided to let its MKs vote their conscience, but that didn’t happen. Likud MKs noted that Netanyahu expressed support for term limits before he became prime minister. The MKs said they were in favor of term limits on principle, regardless of their impact on Netanyahu.

“I am in favor of term limits for the leaders of every country.”

Likud MK Israel Katz

“I am in favor of term limits for the leaders of every country,” MK Israel Katz said. “No one is bigger than George Washington, and he sufficed with eight years. The law in America was changed to a two-term limit after Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I am in favor of doing it here, too, as long as it is not done in a way that is personal.”