Outgoing Ministers Seek to Block Giving Netanyahu Extension

By Yisrael Price

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar of the National Unity party. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM — Members of the outgoing coalition are seeking to preempt Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu’s efforts to form a new government by denying him an extension on the deadline.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli both urged President Isaac Herzog to refuse Netanyahu if he makes the request, which reports say is likely, given the delays caused by wrangling over ministerial appointments.

Sa’ar, of the National Unity party, accused Netanyahu of preparing a “deception,” seeking to exploit the extension option to cover for parliamentary maneuvers.

In a statement on Tuesday, Sa’ar asserted that “the submission of signatures by the parties in Netanyahu’s bloc to replace the Knesset speaker indicates that the assembling of the government has been completed. Netanyahu’s request to the president for extra days for that purpose is deception. The goal is to pass personal, problematic laws at the demand of his allies before the formation of the government.

“It is not for this purpose that the law grants the president the power to extend the deadline. The president should deny Netanyahu’s request,” he said.

Michaeli alleged also that “MK Netanyahu seeks to deal a severe blow to the democratic nature of the State and legislate draconian laws prior to taking on the actual responsibility as prime minister.”

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy announced a plenum vote on his replacement next Monday, but Netanyahu’s mandate expires at Midnight of December 11-12.

That puts Netanyahu in a bind, since he needs a Speaker from his own bloc to facilitate passage of legislation that would, among other things, clear away legal obstacles to the appointment of several ministerial candidates, along with passage of the contentious Override Law, which would enable the Knesset to cancel by a simple 61-vote majority High Court rulings striking down legislation it has passed.

The 14-day extension, which is customarily given at the request of the prime minister-designate, would allow Netanyahu time to solve the problem. But as president, Herzog has discretion in the matter and could refuse him.

However, even if Herzog would agree with their arguments, denying Netanyahu the extension would probably result in another round of elections, since the outgoing coalition clearly does not have enough votes in Knesset to form a government. And since he doesn’t want to be responsible for returning the country to its former political instability, he is expected to grant the extension if requested, no matter how distasteful to Sa’ar and Michaeli.

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