The Jerusalem Post

Term limits


Following the stormy and chaotic “swearing-in” at the Knesset Sunday and the gala ceremony Monday at the President’s Residence on Monday, it’s time for the new Israeli ministers to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

There is no shortage of pressing issues that require immediate attention – from the precarious situation on the country’s northern and southern borders, the Iranian threat, and the upcoming flag march in Jerusalem to critical domestic issues like establishi­ng an inquiry into the Mount Meron disaster, passing a state budget and revitalizi­ng an economy that’s been staggering due to the pandemic-imposed lockdowns and lack of tourism.

That’s just a tip of the iceberg and it’s a daunting task to attempt to tackle all of these issues and so many more simultaneo­usly. It will be a litmus test of whether the new coalition led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is able to succeed and bring about a much-needed stability to Israel and whether it’s able to prioritize, work together as a team despite its disparate makeup, and implement change.

At the top of the government’s and this Knesset’s to-do list, however, should be the introducti­on and passage of a bill that limits the term that a prime minister in Israel can serve.

If the last 25 years, of which Benjamin Netanyahu served 15 of them as prime minister, have taught us anything, it’s that unlimited terms at the helm of the country are not healthy for the country.

No matter how accomplish­ed, efficient and dedicated a prime minister is, serving as a country’s leader for such a long period of time can only ultimately do damage – to the country and to the prime minister. We’ve witnessed as such with the current Netanyahu corruption trial and with his systematic attacks on the justice system, the police and media that got progressiv­ely more vicious during his time in office.

Although there are many aspects that Israel should definitely not emulate in the US system of governance, the two-term limit imposed after the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt is one that should be adopted.

The problem is Netanyahu’s Likud party and its allies see such a bill as a personal attack on the former PM, since he’s the only living prime minister who fits the descriptio­n of having served more than two terms.

Last month, Yamina didn’t back bills advanced by the Knesset Arrangemen­ts Committee that would limit prime ministers to eight years in office and prevent an indicted one from forming a government.

When a bill was raised last month that would have prevented a two-term prime minister from running for Knesset for a four-year grace period, the Likud angrily called the proposed law “akin to the dictates of North Korea or Iran.”

The Bennett-Lapid government has not yet decided how to proceed with the issue, according to the Post’s Gil Hoffman, who reported that the coalition is intent on backing term limits but did not decide their extent or whether Netanyahu would be grandfathe­red in.

A bill imposing term limits for the future could potentiall­y not affect Netanyahu’s ability to compete for PM, whereas a bill specifical­ly targeting the former prime minister would certainly curtail his future political ambitions.

The way we see it, a person who is in the middle of a trial should not be able to lead a government or head a coalition.

That’s simply the ABCs of good government and has nothing to do with term limits.

A prerequisi­te to any bill that’s put forward by the government related to restrictio­ns on who can run for prime minister must include that basic tenet.

Whether the bill also relates to term limitation­s that take into account past terms or only starts counting at zero – the latter which would enable Netanyahu, theoretica­lly exonerated from his charges, to run again as prime minister – is a matter that should be debated and weighed carefully.

But it must be clear that any bill that’s forwarded is not aimed solely at Netanyahu, but at protecting the integrity and the office of the prime minister.

No, it’s not akin to North Korea or to Iran. It’s what a democracy does.

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