Bill compelling indicted PM to resign passes Knesset’s prelim bid

Majority of 61 MKs greenlight new bill forcing acting prime minister to step down if faces criminal indictment. ‘Bill has nothing to do with Olmert,’ says its promoter MK Pines

Amnon Meranda
Published: 05.21.08, 15:51 / Israel News

The Knesset gave the green light to a new bill compelling an indicted prime minister to immediately step down. The bill passed its preliminary reading Wednesday, with 61 Knesset members voting in favor of it and six voting against.

According to the bill, should an acting prime minister be indicted for a felony, he will have no choice but to resign, no longer than 30 days from the time the indictment is filed.

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The bill, brought before the House by MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor-Meimad), stated that should a prime minister be forced to resign, the Knesset will consider the government to have resigned as well.

“The existing law allows the Knesset to force an acting prime minister to step down only when convicted of offenses carrying moral turpitude; thus allowing a premier or minister to stay in office while indicted for criminal offenses; which in turn hinders the proper rule of law in Israel,” said Pines in the bill’s brief.

The motion, he explained, had nothing to do with the ongoing investigations against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: “Olmert himself said he would resign if he were indicted… This bill has merit. The Knesset knows that an acting PM can’t stay in office if he’s facing a criminal indictment. It’s time we have a law to support that.”

Automatic consequences

Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, representing the government in the vote, said that “the law cannot carry the automatic consequence of making an acting prime minister step down simply because an indictment was filed… the mere decision by the attorney general to file any such indictment cannot bring forth a change of government.

“The proper action in any such case, depending on the circumstances, would be for an acting prime minister to take personal responsibility for his conduct, or for the Knesset to vote on a motion of non-confidence.”

The bill was not sanctioned by the government, but several ministers still voted in favor of it, including Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, Minister Ruhama Avraham- Balila, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, Environment Minister Gidon Ezra, Science, Culture and Sport Minister Raleb Majadele and Minister of Immigrant Absorption Jacob Edery.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) voted in favor of the bill as well. The six MKs who voted against it were MK Ephraim Sneh (Labor), MK Yisrael Katz (Likud), MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism), Minister of Pensioner Affairs Rafi Eitan, MK Yitzhak Ziv (Pensioners Party) and MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas).

Over the past few years, the police launched investigations into various allegations against Former Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu. None of them were ever indicted.

Olmert himself was not present for the vote.

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