This revenge dish is being served ice-cold. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s arch-nemesis Gideon Sa’ar has waited seven years for this moment when he, as justice minister, would deliver a fatal blow to the man who has demolished all his efforts to climb to the Likud party’s leadership post.
In September 2014, then Education Minister Sa’ar, who had won the latest Likud primaries (Chairman Netanyahu was the automatic first), took a hiatus from politics. He came back in 2017 and again scored in the top five in the party primaries – only to discover the boss was doing everything in his power to push him down. So he eventually quit the Likud and formed his own New Hope party which was not enough to make him the next prime minister but more than enough for a really bitter justice minister.
Sa’ar told the Shabbat supplement of Yedioth Aharonoth on Friday (גדעון סער: מכין הצעת חוק שלפיה נאשם בפלילים לא יוכל להרכיב ממשלה): “This week I instructed the professional echelon in the Ministry of Justice to prepare a bill according to which the President of the State will not impose the role of cobbling the government on a defendant facing a criminal indictment.”
“I intend to submit this bill to the Knesset’s winter conference or the winter session and it will apply starting with the elections to the 25th Knesset,” said Sa’ar, who added, “I believe we will also deal with the eight-year limit on the post of prime minister, as we promised, in the coming winter session.”
The interviewers wondered if Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who was publicly opposed to the Bibi Law during the last elections, to which Sa’ar responded, saying, “You should assume that I would not have started this procedure without being coordinated with the Prime Minister. May I remind you of the norms that apply in the State of Israel regarding mayors who have been served with an indictment – they are suspended. And may I also mention that mayors are elected in direct elections and yet the legislature has agreed by a broad consensus that they should be suspended if they are charged with crimes.”
Asked if the Bibi Law would not penalize more than one million Likud voters who picked him as their representative, Sa’ar replied: “Every party is free to elect its representatives, but we have already seen that the management of the state by the person against whom an indictment has been filed produces a preference for personal interests over the good of the state.”
Sa’ar was clearly enjoying himself, even though he didn’t crack a smile. He reminded the interviewers of the fact that the appointment of a new State Attorney had not been submitted for government approval by PM Netanyahu, as well as that notorious scene on the opening day of Netanyahu’s trial when he went after the justice system with a cadre of government ministers standing behind him.
“Clearly, it won’t be right to place the country in a similar situation in the future,” Sa’ar said.
“This is a general norm that will apply to everyone,” the justice minister insisted. “I have held consultations in the Justice Ministry and it is clear to me that the proposal we will submit will stand up to all the constitutional tests, and I intend to promote this proposal.”
One outcome of the new bill, and certainly not an unintended consequence, would be the deepening of the cracks with the Likud party. This trend will only get stronger when Netanyahu is compelled to spend several days each week on the defendant’s bench in court.
He should have been nicer to Gideon…