Knesset passes Impeachment Law protecting Netanyahu

Law will bar the Supreme Court from forcing prime minister to recuse himself.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

The Knesset passed the Impeachment Law on Thursday morning protecting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the possibility of a court-ordered recusal.

The law passed its final reading by a vote of 61-47.

The Impeachment Law prevents the Supreme Court from ordering a prime minister to take a leave of absence. Under the new law, a prime minister can be declared unfit for office only for health reasons, and only by a three-quarter majority vote of Cabinet ministers or a three-quarter majority Knesset vote.

The law’s supporters say they are responding to years of judicial overreach. Opponents of the legislation say the law was tailored to protect Netanyahu, who is on trial for fraud, bribery and breach of trust stemming from three separate investigations.

It has been speculated that the Supreme Court or the Attorney General may order Netanyahu to recuse himself from office during the trial due to conflicts of interest.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid slammed the law’s passage, calling it an “obscene and corrupt personal law against an unfounded rumor about recusal.”

Yisrael Beytenu party leader MK Avigdor Liberman responded that he would appeal to the High Court to overturn the impeachment law, saying, “We will not allow the State of Israel to become a Netanyahu monarchy.”

The last Israeli prime minister removed from office for medical reasons was Ariel Sharon. Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert became temporary Prime Minister after Sharon, then 78, suffered a massive stroke on Jan. 4, 2006. The Israeli Cabinet declared Sharon permanently incapacitated on April 11. Sharon remained in a permanent vegetative state until his death in 2014.

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Olmert stepped down from the office in 2008 ahead of his own indictment for corruption. He was later convicted and served two-thirds of a 27-month prison sentence.

The Impeachment Law is part of a government initiative to overhaul the judicial system which has deeply divided Israelis.

Legislation advancing through the Knesset would primarily alter the way judges are appointed and removed, give the Knesset the ability to override certain High Court rulings, restrict the ability of judges to apply standards of “reasonableness,” and change the way legal advisors are appointed to government ministries.