Don’t extend coalition negotiation deadline for Netanyahu, justice minister urges Herzog

Gideon Sa’ar suggested that Netanyahu’s Likud party might make the request just so that it could pass problematic laws before the new government is sworn in.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Outgoing Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar called Tuesday for President Isaac Herzog to reject any Likud party request to extend the coalition negotiations’ deadline, claiming it would be “deceitful.”

Since all the designated coalition partners have now signed on to the formal request to replace the Knesset Speaker, which is a move made by all new administrations so that they can control the pace of legislation, this “indicates that the formation of the government has been completed,” Sa’ar tweeted.

Therefore, he charged, “Netanyahu’s request to the President for additional days for this purpose is deceitful.” According to Sa’ar, the reason for such a request. if made, would be to enable the incoming prime minister to “pass personal and problematic laws according to the demand of his partners before the formation of the government.”

“That is not why the president was given the authority in the law to extend the deadline,” Sa’ar continued, referring to the period of up to two weeks that Herzog could theoretically give the lead party. “The president must reject Netanyahu’s request.”

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Senior members of the outgoing government, including Prime Minister Yair Lapid, have repeatedly claimed that Netanyahu would try to pass legislation that would cancel his corruption trial and “destroy democracy” by allowing a Knesset majority to override Supreme Court decisions.

What is immediately necessary, however, is a change in the law to enable Shas leader Arye Deri to become a minister by defining the suspended sentence he received for tax violations as a legal non-issue. Shas made this a precondition for joining the coalition, and so a new government cannot be sworn in until this legislation is approved by the Knesset.

Sa’ar presumably believes that this was why the incipient coalition members were jumping the gun, as it were, in requesting to install a new Knesset speaker.

An extension may also become necessary because neither of the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, has signed a coalition deal with the Likud yet, although it is expected that they will do so in the coming days. However, the deadline to form a mandate without a legal postponement is this coming Sunday.

It is considered doubtful that all the details will be finalized by then. This includes the Religious Zionist Party, Otzma Yehudit and Noam parties, which did sign coalition agreements whose general provisions have been made public but whose specifics have yet to be nailed down.

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Sources close to Herzog told Hebrew-language Maariv Monday night that the president has thus far received no request to extend Netanyahu’s mandate, but if he does, he would “study the material and the precedents” before making a decision.