Netanyahu slams Israeli term limits bill as ‘Iranian’

If enacted, the bill would limit prime ministers to an eight year term. 

By World Israel News staff

A bill to impose term limits on Israeli prime ministers has been slammed by former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “Iranian,” and undemocratic.

The bill’s author, Gideon Sa’ar, has responded that Netanyahu offered to pass such a bill when wooing him as a coalition partner.

Speaking at a Likud meeting in the Knesset, Netanyahu, who as head of Likud is also the leader of the opposition, claimed the bill was nothing more than a political stunt designed to bolster the government’s position.

“The current government is dropping in the polls, and the opposition is rising in the polls,” he told Likud members. “So what do they do? They’re trying to pass an Iranian law that will create a situation whereby someone can win an election — but not oust them.”

He also claimed that the law was unprecedented, telling his party members that such a law “does not exist in any parliamentary democracy,” adding: “In a democracy, the public decides who leads, and not some arbitrary law.”

The bill, proposed as amendment to Israel’s semi-constitutional Basic Laws by Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, would limit a prime minister to serving eight consecutive years in power. At the end of the term the prime minister would be obliged to step down, although new elections would not be required. Instead, parties would negotiate to form a new government. If passed, it would not apply retrospectively.

The bill has already cleared the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, although on Sunday the committee added an amendment which would limit the prime minister to eight years even if they have served non-consecutive premierships, following which they would be barred from holding the post for three years. They would be allowed to take up the post again after that three year hiatus has passed.

Netanyahu has served a cumulative fifteen years as prime minister of Israel. His first term lasted three years, between 1996 and 1999, and he took the helm again in 2009, serving for twelve years until his replacement by Naftali Bennett earlier this year.

Addressing his own party, New Hope, Sa’ar mocked Netanyahu’s opposition to the bill, claiming Netanyahu had offered him similar legislation in return for supporting a Likud-led government following March’s general election.

Netanyahu “begged me to establish a government together, and promised that I would serve first in a rotation deal,” Sa’ar claimed, adding that Netanyahu had “even agreed to legislate [term limits] in a retroactive manner,” although he did not explain how Netanyahu would again become prime minister in this case.

Having cleared the committee stage, the bill must now clear three Knesset plenum readings before becoming law. If it is enacted, the law will take effect following the next elections, from the date the new government is sworn in.

A separate bill limiting mayors to two terms unless they win more than 50% of the vote is also to be introduced, Sa’ar has said.

Writing on Facebook following the committee meeting vote Sunday, Sa’ar opined: “Term limits (instead of an unlimited term) are an important principle at the foundation of the perception that the government works for the wellbeing of the citizens rather than for itself and its survival.”