Liberman introduces bill to oust Netanyahu amid coalition jockeying

The first bill submitted to the newly sworn-in Knesset threatens to oust the prime minister in a move seen as a coalition ploy by Avigdor Liberman.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Former Defense Minister leader Avigdor Liberman appears to be following through on a threat to introduce a bill that would force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office, Ynet reported Monday.

Immediately after Israel’s parliament was sworn-in earlier in the day, Knesset member Oded Forer of Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party tabled the first bill of the new session, which would amend the law with the goal of forcing Netanyahu to step down.

The proposal is labeled the “termination of the Prime Minister’s term during a transitional government if he is indicted,” which would empower the Knesset to hold a secret vote to oust a sitting prime minister in a transitional government who has been charged with a criminal offense.

Since Liberman quit the government in Nov. 2018, he has been a thorn in Netanyahu’s side, seen by many as driving the events that have pushed Israel toward not one, but three Knesset elections within a year. To date, no clear winner has emerged from any of the votes.

President Reuven Rivlin gave opposition leader Benny Gantz the go-ahead Monday to try to form a new government. Liberman’s proposed legislation appears to be a pressure tactic as coalition negotiations progress in the coming weeks, the Ynet report said.

The message to Netanyahu is that the opposition now has the power to push him towards compromises during the negotiations, or remove him from power. The proposed legislation specifically targets Netanyahu, who has remained the head of the transitional government in place since the Knesset voted to dissolve itself at the end of 2018 and go to elections.

Netanyahu is facing trial on corruption charges, which he has labeled as a witchhunt, but that trial was delayed as Israel’s court system shut down this week as part of the drastic measures taken to contain the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

If the bill does pass and the Knesset votes to oust Netanyahu, the proposal states the government would elect a new transitional prime minister who is the senior Knesset member from the outgoing prime minister’s party, which would likely fall on the Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz.

The complex and complicated world of Israeli politics has been wracked by exceptionally vitriolic animosity from both sides of the political spectrum for the past few years. Unable to defeat Netanyahu at the ballot box, the opposition piled on legislative pressure to try to force him from office.

Pushing back, Netanyahu moved to revert to Israel’s previous practice of granting Knesset members immunity from prosecution so they could not be harassed by allegations.

As the new Knesset was sworn in this week, Liberman’s first shot was followed by moves by Gantz’s Blue and White Party to replace Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, a Likud loyalist, Ynet reported.

Having a speaker from their own party would make it easier for Blue and White to set the political agenda and advance bills like Liberman’s.