Background: MKs flip-flop over proposed Netanyahu and Peres laws

MKs from across the political spectrum condemned Kadima on Sunday for promoting the so-called "Peres bill," which would end secret-ballot voting in the Knesset for the presidency. But many of the MKs who expressed outrage that the bill was intended to help the candidacy of Vice Premier Shimon Peres, in December 2000 voted for the so-called "Bibi bill," which was intended to enable Binyamin Netanyahu to run for prime minister even though he was not an MK. And many of the Bibi bill's strongest opponents now support the Peres bill. "I oppose changing a basic law of the country for the personal needs of one man," Netanyahu told Army Radio on Sunday. "[Passing the bill] would be another blow to the image of a Knesset that is concerned with personal politics and not the public interest." Netanyahu said in the interview that when he supported enacting direct elections and a limit of 18 ministers, he made sure the changes would only take effect with the next government and Knesset. Sources close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accused Netanyahu of hypocrisy for opposing the Peres bill. "It goes to show that when it comes to his own interest, he acts like the lowest of the politicians," Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim said. "Everything is political," Kadima strategist Lior Chorev said. But the opposition leader's spokesman said Netanyahu opposed the Bibi bill in 2000 and instead tried unsuccessfully to initiate a new Knesset election. The bill ultimately passed its final readings without the Likud's support, and was overturned when Ariel Sharon took over as prime minister and canceled the direct election for prime minister law. Netanyahu said in December 2000 that he resented that "the strange bill" was given his name. He suggested that the bill was really intended to help then-prime minister Ehud Barak resist charges that he was trying to block Netanyahu from making a comeback. When the Netanyahu bill first came to a vote, all the Likud MKs supported it, except for Sharon's closest ally at the time, MK Reuven Rivlin, who abstained, and MK Tzipi Livni, who opposed it because she was against personal legislation. Livni is now the strongest proponent of the Peres bill, which passed on Sunday in the ministerial committee on legislation that she chairs. The main advocate of the Netanyahu bill was Shas chairman Eli Yishai, who wanted to avoid a Knesset election because he was afraid of Shas falling from its peak of 17 MKs. Yishai and Shas now oppose the Peres bill. "The support then for the Netanyahu bill wasn't personal but on principal," a Shas spokesman said Sunday, "just like now our opposition to the Peres bill has nothing to do with whether we will support Peres for president, but because ending secret-ballot voting for the presidency would lead to open voting on other issues." Labor, which opposes the Peres bill, also supported the Bibi bill in its final readings on December 18, 2000. At Netanyahu's request, the Likud opposed it, along with Israel Beiteinu, the National Religious Party and the National Union, who all oppose the Peres bill. Another example of personal legislation was when the so-called "Peretz law" passed in 2005, banning Amir Peretz from serving simultaneously as Histadrut chairman and an MK. The same year, Sharon tried unsuccessfully to pass what was then called the "Peres bill," which would have allowed a second vice prime minister in addition to Olmert.