Photo Credit: Gili Yaariq and Yonatan Sindel / Flash90
Benjamin Netanyahu and Gideon Sa'ar

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation unanimously approved legislation, on Sunday, to set term limits for the prime minister of Israel, to a total of eight years. The bill was introduced by Justice Minister Gidon Sa’ar, and is generally being viewed as a personal law against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is the longest serving prime minister in Israeli history, with a combined 14+ years of service.

The law now heads to the Knesset.


This law would not actually apply retroactively, meaning the 72-year-old Netanyahu could still run again and serve for 8 more years.

Netanyahu came out swinging against the proposed law declaring it and the people pushing the law undemocratic, whether this law applies to him or not. Netanyahu said that someone who won’t pass the electoral threshold, referring to Sa’ar and his party, and possibly PM Naftali Bennett too, setting limits and blocking the citizens’ choice is undemocratic.

Netanyahu pointed out that in parliamentary democracies such as Canada and Germany, Pierre Trudeau served as prime minister of Canada for 15 years, and in Germany, Angela Merkel served for 16 years, and no one considers Germany or Canada non-democratic.

In 1995, Netanyahu supported term limits for the premiership. But he supported it in the very specific case where Israel would hold direct elections for the prime minister, and the prime minister would not be beholden to a parliamentary coalition to get anything accomplished. At that time, he said two terms would be enough to get the job done.

Unfortunately, the lawmakers made a mistake when implementing Israel’s direct election law, and it didn’t create a presidential system that Netanyahu envisioned. It was quickly dropped as a failure, instead of fixing it and implementing it properly, with a true separation of branches.

According to a report on Kan 11 News, Bennett and Ayelet Shaked opposed the law because it would potentially block Bennett’s ability to complete a full term as prime minister in the future, due to the rotation in the middle with Yair Lapid. Bennett wanted to have his premiership exempted from the law. In the end an agreement was reached with Gideon Sa’ar that following a break of 3 years, the law would allow a former prime minister to serve again for another 8 years.

MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) also opposed the law, saying it was not appropriate for Israel’s system of government and was an assault on democracy, but she voted for it as it was part of the coalition agreements that she would support it.


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