(Photo Credit: AFP)
The Israeli Knesset passed a law on 23 March that restricts the conditions under which an Israeli prime minister can be removed from office, as critics say the law is meant to prevent Benjamin Netanyahu from facing prosecution in his ongoing corruption trial, Ynet has reported.
The Incapacitation Law, which prevents the attorney general from declaring a sitting prime minister unfit to serve, was passed early Thursday morning with 61 MPs voting in favor and 47 against.
The law states that a serving prime minister may only be removed if he is physically or mentally incapable of serving in the position. Such a removal must be approved by at least 75 percent of the government ministers, and if the prime minister still refuses to step down, by at least 75 percent of the Knesset members.
Critics of the law contend this will make it more difficult to remove Prime Minister Netanyahu if he attempts to influence ongoing legal proceedings on corruption charges against him. Netanyahu had signed a conflict of interest agreement with the attorney general in 2020, restricting him from making appointments to law enforcement and legal positions, as well as any action that would deliberately impact witnesses in his ongoing corruption trials.
The new Incapacitation Law would prevent Netanyahu from being removed from office should he violate the agreement.
Israeli authorities began pursuing claims in 2016 that the prime minister had performed official favors for wealthy businessmen in exchange for gifts and return favors.
Netanyahu was accused of receiving cigars, champagne, bracelets, bags, and luxury clothes, disrupting investigative and judicial proceedings, and demanding favorable coverage from two major Israeli news outlets.
Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, lost the position in June 2021 after elections brought Naftali Bennett to power. However, Netanyahu regained the post at the head of the new far-right political coalition last December.
He previously pledged not to use his authority as prime minister to influence the legal process in his corruption trial in his favor. But some of his coalition partners indicated they had plans to do so.
The New York Times reported, “If convicted, Mr. Netanyahu could be sentenced to several years in prison. But some of his far-right coalition partners, who were celebrating the electoral victory even before Mr. Lapid conceded, may offer crucial assistance in keeping him out of jail. They have said they will push to legalize one of the crimes he is accused of—or even end the trial entirely.”
The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday that Israeli opposition figures accused Netanyahu and his coalition partners of attempting to shield the prime minister in this way.
National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz tweeted on Thursday: “The Impeachment Law has passed – a personal law that is all about strengthening Netanyahu’s rule…There is no softening, no stopping, and there are no restraints.”
“Like thieves in the night, the coalition has now passed an obscene and corrupt personal law,” wrote opposition leader Yair Lapid on Twitter on Thursday.
Avigdor Liberman, chairman of the Yisrael Beytenu party, stated, “We will not allow the State of Israel to become a monarchy of the Netanyahu family.”