This position paper is presented to the Knesset’s Special Committee for the Amendment of Basic Law: The Government, which is discussing ways to restrict the conditions for the impeachment of a prime minister.
The proposed amendment restricts impeachment to cases where physical or mental incapacity prevent a prime minister from fulfilling his duties, and stipulates that the authority to declare this incapacity will lie with the prime minister himself or with the government, if approved by three-quarters of the ministers. The government’s decision will be valid for three days, at which point it will be submitted to the Knesset House Committee for endorsement by a two-thirds majority. If the government’s decision is due to health reasons, the House Committee will also factor in a medical opinion. Any extension of more than seven days, if suggested by the House Committee, will be put to a vote by the plenum and will require a majority of 80 MKs. Impeachment will be a political decision, which will be immune from judicial review and will not take into consideration the Attorney General’s position.
Zulat’s position is that the proposal should be rejected for the following reasons:
- A prime minister would be able to systematically commit serious criminal offenses and abuse his power, yet continue in office until elections are called, due to the absence of judicial review, the irrelevance of the Attorney General’s position, and the restriction of impeachment to physical or mental incapacity.
- Impeachment would become a wholly political question. The government, the House Committee, and the Knesset might abstain from declaring a prime minister physically or mentally unfit in order to stay in power or if they sense they lack the majority for such a move. Given that the government fully controls the Knesset and that the government is formed by the coalition, the proposed majority for all the votes may be unattainable. Were a prime minister to be in a coma, the ministers would become a kind of “junta” that would run the country until the scheduled time for elections or until they decided to bring them forward.
- Were elections to be postponed for whatever reason, an incumbent prime minister might remain in office indefinitely or until he and the ministers decided otherwise. This would be the case if the government-controlled Knesset decided to put off the elections, either because of an emergency situation or for any political reason.