March 5 (UPI) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a new hurdle Thursday after a majority of Knesset members said they supported a bill that would prevent an indicted member from forming a government.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu’s Likud Party won 36 Knesset seats and his conservative religious block captured 59 seats, just two shy of a majority. The rival Blue and White party won 32 seats and its coalition scored 54 seats.
But Netanyahu is under criminal indictment and his corruption cases are expected to go to court this month. Yisrael Beytenu Party leader Avigdor Liberman said Thursday he would join a proposal by Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White Party, in supporting a bill that would prevent indicted Knesset members from forming a government.
Support from the party would give it the 61 members it needs to pass it.
“Bibi, after an election full of lies that hit a new low, in which you failed to win the 61 mandates that could have enabled you to be above the law, you are still trying to steal votes from defectors,” Blue and White Knesset member Moshe Ya’alon said.
“There are many in Likud who have asked us for help in getting rid of you. You will not find such overtures about Gantz in Blue and White,” Ya’alon said.
The measure brought claims of sour grapes from Netanyahu and his supporters, who said opponents are only pushing such a bill because they lost the election. Netanyahu said the fallout could endanger a Middle East peace plan created by the Trump administration.
“This is an effort to divide the nation when we are facing serious challenges like the corona crisis,” Netanyahu said. “There are also opportunities like U.S. President Donald Trump‘s plan that require us to be united and respect the will of the people.”
Knesset member Ofer Shelah said he was outraged by Netanyahu dismissing the increasing number of seats won by the Joint Arab List Party. He said Netanyahu wants to cheat the democratic process by not acknowledging the Arab seats.