Blue and White Backs Off Anti-Netanyahu Bill, But Seeks to ‘Trap’ PM, Report Says

YERUSHALAYIM -
Head of Blue and White party Benny Gantz. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Blue and White intends to move forward with a bill that will prevent individuals under indictment from forming a government – but only beginning with the next election, party officials were quoted in media reports as saying. The bill will not be presented in the Knesset next week, as had been reported, but only after the next government is formed. In any event, the party intends to gather a majority of MKs to pass the bill during the upcoming session.

The change in plans came after the plan to pass the bill was made public by Blue and White MK Ofer Shelach Wednesday. “There is already a law that bars such individuals from being appointed a minister, so there is no reason not to expand it to include the office of prime minister,” Shelach told Yediot Acharonot. “There is no reason for us to have to hang our heads in shame in two weeks when Netanyahu goes on trial for bribery. If we can get Yisrael Beytenu and the United Arab List on board, we will go for it.” United Arab List MK Ahmed Tibi said there was a good chance his party would support the bill as well. “In any normal country, a prime minister under indictment would have to resign, and if he does not, the Knesset should take action,” Tibi told the newspaper. “If such a bill is brought to the Knesset we will weigh our options and chances are we will support it.”

The plan elicited an outcry of protest from rightwing MKs and ministers. Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri said that “the idea of doing this after the people have had their say as a personal law against Netanyahu breaks all the rules of political engagement. Blue and White is prepared to sacrifice the good of the people and Israeli democracy to serve its agenda of hatred against Netanyahu, which unites them, Avigdor Liberman and the United Arab List.” Yemina MK Ayelet Shaked said that the move echoed those by Turkish leader Erdogan, who is well-known for his autocratic actions. Sport and Culture Minister Miri Regev said that “this law is nothing short of the beginning of a coup. We will not allow it to happen,” while Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said that “the effort by Ahmed Tibi and Ofer Shelach to pass an ‘anybody but Netanyahu’ law is a radical, anti-democratic move that spits in the face of half the country.”

The decision is also part of Blue and White’s strategy to force Binyamin Netanyahu to accept a unity government headed by Benny Gantz, Ha’aretz reported. If Netanyahu is unable to form a coalition, that job will go to Gantz, who will propose a unity government with him as prime minister – possibly as part of a rotation agreement, with him serving first. If the bill is passed during the current Knesset after Netanyahu has had a chance to form a government, the right would not be able to criticize the bill as a personal attack against Netanyahu, as numerous MKs did Wednesday – and it would incentivize Netanyahu to accept a deal set by Gantz, since he would have no option to form a government after fourth elections, the newspaper said.