The Knesset is set to vote Wednesday on the first reading of the so-called “Gideon Sa’ar Law,” which would limit the President’s leeway to impact the formation of a government. The law, proposed by Likud MK David Amsalem, will require the President to appoint the head of the largest faction in the Knesset to form a government after elections are held.
The law to be voted on is a somewhat muted version of Amsalem’s original proposal. In the current version, the President can also respond to requests by a majority of elected MKs to appoint someone whom they choose as Prime Minister, allowing the formation of a government in that manner. In the vast majority of cases, Amsalem said, that person will be the head of the largest party.
In Israel’s parliamentary system, the party with the most votes generally has the first opportunity to form a government, which must be formed within 90 days of elections. According to the Basic Law on elections, the President has the option of calling on an individual other than the head of the party – or even on a party that did not garner the highest number of votes in the election – to form a government, if he feels that the chosen individual or party has the best chance to form a government. Amsalem’s proposal would change that law to require that the President present the head of the party that got the most votes with that first opportunity.
The issue of who would form the next government came to the fore in October, after Yisrael Hayom reported that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was concerned that President Reuven Rivlin would bypass him to form the new government after the next elections. Given the bad blood between Netanyahu and Rivlin, the newspaper said – Rivlin is said to blame Netanyahu for attempting to prevent him from ascending to the presidency – Netanyahu decided not to call for early elections as he had planned to do, preferring to figure out a way to ensure that Rivlin not be able to perform a “runaround” of his forming a government.
Later, the newspaper said, Likud sources named former Likud MK and minister Gideon Sa’ar as being responsible for the efforts to convince Rivlin not to appoint Netanyahu as the organizer of the government. Sa’ar, too, has hard feelings for Netanyahu, whom he blames for keeping him out of the Knesset.