Legislation enabling unity government coalition in Israel moves a step closer to passage

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Legislation to enshrine into law the rotation of prime minister under the new unity government in Israel is two parliament votes away from passage.

On Thursday, the Knesset’s first reading to amend the quasi-constitutional Basic Law passed in a 72-40 vote. The bill must go through two more readings after a special Knesset committee discusses and revises certain sections.

The readings must be completed by Thursday in order for the new government to be recommended to President Reuven Rivlin in time. Otherwise Rivlin will order new elections, which would be Israel’s fourth in less than a year and a half.

A member of Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Union, which will be a partner in the unity government coalition, heads the revision committee.

Under the rotation, Netanyahu would remain as prime minister for 18 months and then Gantz would take over.

Gantz required the amendment to the Basic Law because of speculation that Netanyahu would not honor the coalition agreement and give up the premiership. The change also will prevent Netanyahu from being barred from serving as prime minister as his corruption trial goes forward.

A panel of 11 Supreme Court justices will begin hearing lawsuits next week calling on them to make it illegal for Netanyahu to remain as prime minister while under indictment for corruption. His trial begins in two weeks.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit wrote Thursday in an opinion sent to the Supreme Court that he does not see any legal obstacle to Netanyahu forming and serving as prime minister of the unity government despite being under indictment for corruption.